Likes: Bombs Away, Out of My Mind, So Hard to Breathe
Dislikes: Ray Bands, Circles
Overall: Decent, but not excellent. A bit basic.
The sophomore (or 2nd) album is a crucial period for a mainstream artist who had a successful debut. They’ll either continue to be a smash or gradually fade away. Between fickle audiences, shifts in music industry practices/trends, and an artist’s own personal growth, it’s a 50/50 shot. With “Strange Clouds,” has rapper B.O.B. dodged the proverbial ‘sophomore jinx’, set himself apart and proven he deserves to stick around? Yes and no. B.O.B. reached the charts with songs in which he was an after-thought; hits like “Nothin’ On You” (ft. Bruno Mars) & “Airplanes” (ft. Hayley Williams), were more known for their infectious and melodic choruses than his rhymes. B.O.B was a like a featured artist on his own tracks. On this record, that’s still somewhat of a problem, as some of the more appealing cuts are sung features (appearances include Taylor Swift, Chris Brown & Trey Songz). B.O.B. is debatably lost in the shadows even on his rap collaborations (Nicki Minaj has a memorable verse on “Out of My Mind”). The rebound from this is that he makes a stable enough effort to shine on his solo tracks.
Although elementary lyrics are spread throughout, I appreciated that reflection and tales of struggle and aspiration are a consistent topic. I also liked how majority of the songs involving women were simply about wooing and having a good time, as opposed to a casual sexual encounter (despite being musically bland and cheesy). The production teetered back and forth between traditional/basic (ex. “Play for Keeps”) and untraditional/interesting (“Never Let You Go,” some live instrumentation). All and all, “Strange Clouds” is acceptable enough to give B.O.B. another chance to get it right, but is uninspiring enough to throw in the towel if the 3rd album doesn’t hit it out of the ballpark. Album sampler below.