Atlanta rapper B.o.B.'s debut album The Adventures of Bobby Ray, with its terrific flow and pop sensibilities, is one of my favorite records of the year (I recognize that Janelle Monae belongs in an entirely different stratosphere). But flipping back through B.o.B.'s videos, I think the guy needs someone to give him a souped-up look that matches his lyrical and stylistic sensibilities.
Let's take the most recent one, for "Airplanes," his duet with Paramore's Hayley Williams:
It's very pretty. Williams is a lovely girl, and well-served by the lighting. B.o.B. can hold an empty space. But it's an entirely literal video. When Williams sings about stars, there are sparkly lights! When B.o.B. reaches the end of the song, a suitcase materializes in one of those empty spaces! The one innovation is the Harry Potter-like moving Polaroids, but they're barely there, and there's no interaction with them.
Similarly, the collage concept is cute in the video for "Nothing On You":
But again, it's very literal. It's a song about seeing pretty girls! And there are pretty girls to be seen!
Maybe the best video B.o.B. has going for him is the slightly weird, low-budget one he did for "I'll Be In the Sky," one of the songs he did for a pre-debut mixtape
The initial premise is more promising than the execution: B.o.B.'s come-to-earth in circumstances that look suspiciously like a spaceship crash. It's a concept that's shows up in songs on The Adventures of Bobby Ray: at one point he notes, "I abandoned my own planet and I landed on Earth." If he'd taken the concept a lot further, it would be fun, but even if he didn't, another big, intense concept for a video spangled with space references, like what OutKast did in "Roses," with its allusions to "down-to-Mars girls."
And the guy has a lot of basic assets. The video for "Haterz Everywhere" (another mixtape song) is as low-concept as some of these other clips:
But it proves he's got a nice kinetic physicality. Someone could do some good work with this guy. Maybe Bryan Barber's available? Surely Big Boi and Andre could help a local up-and-comer out with a referral?
Alyssa Rosenberg is a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com. She is the pop culture blogger for ThinkProgress, where she writes about the intersection of politics and culture at http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa.
Alyssa is also a columnist for the Washington Monthly and The Loop 21. Her career as a critic began at 8, when she began a children's book review column for her local paper, taking payments in gift certificates to the neighborhood bookstore. Since then, her interests have expanded to include Atlanta hip-hop, procedural television shows, and action movies she watches without any sense of irony whatsoever. Her writing on culture has appearedin Esquire.com, The Daily, The Daily Beast and the American Prospect, and she has written about politics and the executive branch for Government Executive, The New Republic and National Journal.