(re-reviewed July 20th, 2010)
B.o.B dropped the ball a little bit on this one. Well, maybe I shouldn’t really blame B.o.B; I have a feeling this album’s sound was the idea of some record company executive. There’s no reason a rapper’s free mixtapes should ever be better than their album, but with B.o.B that is exactly what happened; Who the F#^k is BoB runs circles around The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend in hip-hop lately; Wale, Slaughterhouse, and Charles Hamilton are all examples of rappers in the last two years who have proven themselves to be better at putting together a mixtape than putting together an album.
The album starts out promising enough with the piano-driven “Don’t Let Me Fall”. Since B.o.B’s three big singles all have someone else doing the hook, some newcomers may be surprised to hear just how talented B.o.B actually is; he’s a very good singer and the piano you hear in songs like this one are played by him. I was hoping that this would be his third single instead of “Magic”, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. After “Don’t Let Me Fall” comes his breakout single “Nothin’ on You” with Bruno Mars providing the chorus (“interesting” fact: B.o.B’s friend Lupe Fiasco was originally supposed to have Nothin’ on You and Airplanes as his songs, but he ultimately passed on them). Nothin’ on You got heavy airplay, so you probably already know if you like it or not; I’m indifferent to it. It’s cheesy (a common theme on this album), but it was still better than most of the other stuff you hear on the radio.
The third track on the album is the B.o.B/Lupe Fiasco collaboration “Past My Shades”, one of the better songs on the album. The two rappers mesh really well together. Plus, it has a hook actually sung by B.o.B and not some pop singer; for the most part, I prefer B.o.B to sing his hooks.
The only exception to that rule (horrible pun completely intended) comes with the Hayley Williams-assisted Airplanes, the fourth track on the album (music video above). Looking back, it’s a little weird that the first time I saw the tracklist for B.o.B’s album I facepalmed — “seriously? the guy who made THIS SONG is collaborating with the girl from the Twilight band?”. My bad. This will probably end up being my favorite song of the year, mainstream or otherwise; I don’t remember the last time I liked a mainstream pop song as much as I like Airplanes. I expected to hate Hayley Williams’ contribution to this, but in the end I ended up really liking it. I liked it so much that I thought “maybe Paramore doesn’t suck as much as I thought they did”, and now Paramore has 1,200 plays on my LastFM. B.o.B does a great job on this song, but Hayley Williams arguably outshines him (4 months ago, I never thought I’d say that sentence).
Up next comes one of the most out of place songs ever, “Bet I” featuring T.I. and Playboy Tre. It feels like this is something put on the album to satisfy fans of B.o.B’s mixtapes, but it doesn’t really feel right on this album. That said it’s a very good song (except for Playboy Tre’s lackluster verse), and I wish more songs on the album were like Bet I.
So far I’ve been pretty positive talking about this album, but that’s all about to change very quickly. The next three songs are “Ghost in the Machine”, “The Kids (featuring Janelle Monae)”, and “Magic (featuring Rivers Cuomo). The Kids is without a doubt the best of these three, but even then it’s just okay. If you want a good song with B.o.B and Janelle Monae, listen to the exponentially better Tightrope Wondamix. B.o.B sings all of “Ghost in the Machine”, but his singing here isn’t as good as it usually is. Finally, Magic is just awful. Bobby Ray’s rapping is good enough, but I can’t get past the chorus. Let me put it this way: there’s a song on this album where the chorus says, “Let’s pretend that Airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, I could really use a wish right now…”, but that song has only one-tenth of the cheesiness that Magic has. Magic just sounds like something made for 6-year-olds.
The ninth track on the album, Fame, is a nice breath of fresh air for an album that was turning really boring really quick. All they had to do was have B.o.B sing the hooks and rap the verses (like he does on Fame) and this would’ve been a very good album — but somehow, that combination happens on less than half of The Adventures of Bobby Ray.
After Fame comes Lovelier Than You and 5th Dimension — both are really unspectacular and boring. The album ends with Airplanes Part II, this time with a guest spot from both Hayley Williams and Eminem. Eminem adds a verse while Hayley’s contribution is the exact same as the original Airplanes. I really like it, just the original Airplanes.
B.o.B is a really talented musician and has a really likable personality, so I don’t regret buying this album since I’d like to support him. I’ve been a fan of his for a few years now, and it’s pretty cool seeing how big he’s become in the music industry. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the album I was hoping for from him. It’s a mix of very good and very bad, which puts this album somewhere in the realm of mediocrity. 5.0/10