Created on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 20:30
Editor's Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.
When an album starts off with Morgan Freeman's narrative voice, you know s--t's going to go down.
The Winston-Salem native dropped his latest full-length album "Strange Clouds" Tuesday. "Clouds" features many guest artists, including Lil Wayne, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and, yes, Morgan Freeman in the opening track "Bombs Away."
The problem with having so many featured artists is that B.o.B doesn't really establish a standout, solo sound in his own album. In fact, nine of the 15 tracks feature another artist or two.
What's really intriguing about the collaborations, though, is that B.o.B adapts to the artist featured while still keeping hold of his sound. But this still makes the album a little jumbled. It doesn't have a consistent, aesthetic sound.
"Out of My Mind" with Nicki Minaj is just a hectic, neurotic Minaj song. It goes from obnoxious rap to obnoxious faux-bass, staccato vocal lines, but at least B.o.B is there to clean up her mess and – somewhat – save the song.
"Both of Us" featuring Taylor Swift sounds incredibly similar to the famous single "Airplanes," featuring Haley Williams from Paramore, of 2010's "B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray." B.o.B works wonderfully with strong, composed female vocalists. Their chorus lines set the stage and tempo of the song, even if it is Taylor Swift.
Even though less than half of this album has B.o.B's voice solely, he really sells it in "Ray Bands," a catchy, bass-heavy, lively song with a tasteful dose of auto tune.
The last real issue of concern with this album is that it sounds too much like his 2010 album. Two years and 15 tracks later, it would seem that a new album with original material would sound like a completely different body of work, but that just doesn't seem to be the case.
However, "B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray" was pretty damn good, so it's not a total letdown that "Strange Clouds" sounds like a late released extension.
"Strange Clouds" is a great collection of diverse B.o.B material and collaborations with other artists. If only this album were heavier on his solo work, the rating would go up half a star.
The album is now available for download on iTunes and for purchase in stores.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Story: MICHAEL BRAGG, Lifestyles Editor