B.o.B pushed himself to new heights with his guest verse on Tech N9ne’s “Am I A Psycho?” last summer, and now he’s back with a collection of tracks demanding respect, and he’s no longer simply featured. Boasting an impressive collection of guest appearances including bits from Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, as well as Morgan Freeman (yes, you read that right), the album defines “star-studded,” while at the same time defying the proverbial “sophomore slump.” As there are a grand 15 tracks of downy R&B meets glitch-hop, I am going to focus on what I believe are the highlights. If I don’t note a particular track, it’s safe to just assume it wasn’t noteworthy.
1. “Both Of Us” (feat. Taylor Swift): I’ll admit I was a skeptic – I truly expected this one to be generic radio garbage, no offense to Taylor Swift. However, a beautifully simple blend of Swift’s innocent Southern refrain, buzzing into a B.o.B verse backed by bass reminiscent of LIGHTS’ “Flux & Flow,” left no uncertainty in my head, or my heart. Sitting at a pop-perfect 3 1/2 minutes, the track is not so short that I feel bad putting it on repeat and racking up the plays, but it’s also not so long so as to be virtually unlistenable. Get a step ahead of the hipsters and pick up this single.
2. “Strange Clouds” (feat. Lil Wayne): The first single, as well as title track, is reverb introduced intravenously. Regrettably, I feel that Lil Wayne’s smoother, slower flow really takes away from the hard-hitting vocals B.o.B delivers. Regardless, “Strange Clouds” packs a decent punch.
3. “So Good”: Being the sucker for piano that I am, “So Good” doesn’t disappoint with its’ “Don’t Let Me Fall”-esque vibe. It defines the now-classic B.o.B single – radio-friendly, yet somehow still edgy. There’s really not much to be said about the perfectly-produced single with the exception of, well, “it’s ‘so good.'”
4. “Arena” (feat. Chris Brown & T.I.): More generic radio garbage with a test tube chorus, I presume? No, somehow this familiar track still feels new. With its twangy bass line and hidden guitar melody, “Arena” has the ingredients of a superb single.
5. “Out Of My Mind” (feat. Nicki Minaj): This glitch-fest works on so many levels. Sadly, whatever level Nicki Minaj is on (and it’s got to be a pretty low one) is not one of them. Her dull contribution only takes away from the jittery jambalaya that is otherwise lucratively listenable and, beyond that, entirely enjoyable.
6. “Never Let You Go” (feat. Ryan Tedder): “Never Let You Go” serves as a reference point of one of the few times when real guitar meshes well with processed percussion. Under normal circumstances, I would also be thoroughly turned off by banjo, but again B.o.B seeks to prove these aren’t normal circumstances. This song’s downfall is one much too common in popular music today: there are just too many refrains. Sitting at 4 minutes 21 seconds, “Never Let You Go” could’ve taken a lesson from “Both Of Us” and cut a bit out.
7. “Just A Sign” (feat. Playboy Tre): Rest assured, the longest track on the album doesn’t suck. This eclectically ethereal trip makes for an atmosphere that is simply described as “mind-blowing.” But it’s not some F5 tornado here to throw caution to the wind; it’s more of a gentle, rather welcome breeze. This track will probably never hit radio airwaves, but that’s disappointing because it’s truly some of the best work I’ve heard from a hip-hop artist in years.
8. “Where Are You (B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray)”: While it may not be worth downloading, this self-reflection from B.o.B to alter ego Bobby Ray deserves, at the very least, a YouTube stream.
So now, for those of you keeping track, that was eight full-blown hits out of a total 15 tracks. That’s not a bad statistic when you compare it to something like the debut Jason Derulo album (which sits at a meek 22 percent in my music library). Combine these tracks with the radio and cult hits from 2010’s “B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray” and our boy B.o.B already has a greatest hits album under his belt. And for those feeling very adventurous, there is always a deluxe edition of the album available. But who needs a deluxe edition when the standard edition lasts a solid hour?
Elijah Kampsen is a freshman in English. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.