B.o.B. continues to think outside the box with his sophomore album, Strange Clouds. Elements of various musical genres —from hip-hop to jazz to country— can be heard throughout. The singer, songwriter, rapper and producer skyrocketed to success with his two monster smashes “Nothin’ On You” and “Airplanes”, both crossover tracks that featured somewhat unlikely artists singing the hook (Bruno Mars and Hayley Williams, respectively). Based on how commercially successful each of these songs were, it seems as if B.o.B. is eager to try replicate their success, as he’s recruited a number of collaborators for tracks on his new album. Whether they are household names like Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift, or newcomers like Lauriana Mae, the variety of artists on the album is quite impressive. We ranked each of the songs that feature other artists, and it’s not what you’d expect.
9. “Strange Clouds” feat. Lil Wayne – We don’t know what’s up with Weezy, but his flow hasn’t quite been the same since he got outta the joint. A song about partying, drinking and smoking all night has to have an element to it that makes the listener want to partake in the fun. We don’t know if it’s believable here.
8. “Out Of My Mind” feat. Nicki Minaj: We’re getting an outer space vibe on this one. And is it just us or did B.O.B. slightly sound like Ludacris? Either way, Nicki does what she does best on this track. She plays with different animated voices, she raps, she sings. Repeat. It’s fine, but it’s nothing transcendent.
6. “Castles” feat. Trey Songz: Reflecting on his life thus far, B.O.B. raps about making his dreams a reality. Triggggaaaa takes it there with a high octave pitch. It’s nice to hear Trey’s versatility as we’re used to hearing him sing about, er, inventing sex. The heavenly theme of there being something greater than us, mixed with the a R&B, pop and hip-hop feel makes this one of the albums gems.
5. “Never Let You Go” feat. Ryan Tedder: Filled with guitar riffs, Tedder and B.O.B. tell us what they really feel about fame. Guess what? It doesn’t mean more to them than the special woman that they never want to let go. POW!
4. “Just A Sign” feat. Playboy Trey : Futuristic, yet a simple sound. Both rappers leave their souls in this song. Not to mention B.O.B. sings the chorus and jumps right back into rapping.
3. “Chandelier” feat. Lauriana Mae: Lauriana Mae sounds like a mix between Amy Winehouse and Lana del Rey. The way she welds jazz and soul with hip-hop and R&B, it’s easy to understand why her influences are Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Etta James. It’s easily one of the top songs on the album. We hope to see her “keep shining like a chandelier.”
2. “Both Of Us” feat. Taylor Swift: T-Swizzle’s soft country vocals are a perfect touch for a song about strength. She beautifully masters the chorus: “I wish I was strong enough to lift not one, but both of us.” B.O.B. spits bars about defeating the odds and triumphing over the struggles. Although he raps, “Do it one time for the underdogs,” nothing about either of them are underdogs.
1. “Bombs Away” feat. Morgan Freeman : You read that right. It’s the same Morgan Freeman from The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy. Yep, that’s right, B.o.B. got the same guy who played God in Bruce Almighty to open and close the first song on his album. B.O.B. raps about an alternate universe over an amazing video game-ish beat. But we really couldn’t get past the fact that Morgan freaking Freeman makes his debut on wax here!
[Photo: Getty Images, Atlantic Records]