B.o.B's sophomore effort is missing that little bit of humility that made his debut (2010's The Adventures of Bobby Ray) so approachable, and when you come out of the gate nailing such a wide variety of pop-rap, asking for growth is asking for a lot. On this sophomore effort, B.o.B sounds like the same guy who delivered that debut and with the same set of skills (good lyrics, great pathos, and great punch lines) and aspirations (big across the board), just after numerous nights of bottle service, living in a platinum dream world where Dr. Luke and Lil Wayne contribute to your hazy highlight title track, and where mega-star Taylor Swift replaces Hayley Williams on the worthy "Airplanes" follow-up, "Both of Us." Later it's Nicki Minaj acting like a malfunctioning robot on the hip thrill ride called "Out of My Mind," followed by alt-rocker Ryan Tedder on the warm and cozy morning affirmation titled "Never Let You Go," but B.o.B isn't just influenced by the styles of his guests and is willing to bump a solo strip-club number ("Ray Bands") next to a solo soul-searcher ("So Hard to Breathe") as if albums were always executed like trapeze acts. Combine well funded and well crafted along with the rapper's "no frontin'" attitude -- sometimes he really wants to ease problems, and sometimes he really wants to be at a strip club -- and it starts to come together, plus when Morgan Freeman delivers that big, heavy-handed intro with barely a smirk, B.o.B's choice of audacious over ironic is refreshing. This is bold pop-rap at an "Arena" level, and while partying like a rock star means cohesiveness takes a hit, Strange Clouds is still thrilling and persuasive.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr.