And sometimes he is sad. A complex beast indeed…
Katherine St Asaph: Dude, you just made it, and Hayley’s presence here gives you even more crossover appeal. So could you wait until you’ve released, oh, more than two singles to gripe about how sucky and transient you find worldwide fame? You’re like a partier who sulks by the window waiting for the cops to arrive. At his own party.
Erick Bieritz: Terms like “emo-rap” are usually among the most useless in popular music, taking an already-hopelessly distorted genre and soldering it onto the front of one that hardly needs any more qualifiers. That said, it may actually apply to this impossibly wimpy track, because the phrase “can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky like shooting stars” must have been copied from the lyric insert of a Deep Elm compilation or a Sunny Day Real Estate-inspired LiveJournal entry. Kanye did this ages ago with more subtlety, and any artist who is on the unsubtle side of Kanye is in a bad place.
Matt Cibula: It’s aight, but all in all I’d rather be listening to the (unfairly maligned) Gym Class Heroes.
Al Shipley: As far as pairings of XXL-hyped new jack rappers and white girls go, it beats the hell out of Wale/Gaga, but that ain’t sayin’ much.
John Seroff: Sadly, no matter how much you tart this up with Hayley’s cooing, B.o.B’s mediocre middle class 2007 nostalgia, vamping Casio horns or military toms, there’s still no mistaking the soggy Ryan Tedder-esque core of “Airplanes” for anything but weak chumming for glum teens and television montages. Which is not to say that I doubt kids (and TV execs) won’t take the bait; the phenomenal success of ‘Beautiful Girls’ suggests that B.o.B may have found his commercial niche as the herald of non-threatening, rapalong, Deep Thoughts, inspirational emo-pop. Nice work if you can stomach it.
Ian Mathers: It’s hard to describe how little B.o.B. makes me care about his woes (sure, monetizing doing what you love sucks, but do you know what sucks more? Getting a day job), but the production is lovely and surprisingly enough I kind of love Williams (whose band I also don’t care about) on the chorus. I’m torn between thinking I’d like to hear Williams tackling a song like this on her own, and thinking instead that all she needs is a more interesting rapper to work with.
Martin Skidmore: Hayley out of Paramore sounds very good on this, emotional and yearning, much better than on the group’s last. B.o.B. himself sounds okay, pretty strong and confident, if rather dated.
Alfred Soto: Drawling like Alanis and elongating vowels like Avril, Hayley Williams plays exactly the sort of chick to whom a moderately interesting, unexciting rapper would direct a song: by his lights I can understand why she sounds “exotic.”
Jonathan Bogart: His name is on the most consistently listenable overplayed single on pop radio over the last month, which was enough to get me on board; and her band is apparently pretty good. I’m not sure this truly qualifies as next-level -— I turned on the radio and heard “Nothin’ On You” right after listening to this, and it’s still one of the best reasons to be cheerful in 2010 -— but it’s as much a great conceptual hook as it is a great vocal one, and I imagine given the right frame of mind it could even be uplifting. I’m still a little nonplussed about the fact that a kid born in 1988 is all on this seasoned-wisdom tip, but if he keeps up the quality I got nothin’ to say.
Rodney J. Greene: The crash of the rap market has had bizarre consequences. Where there once was ample room in mainstream channels for rap hits that had crossover potential but still appealled to rap’s core audience, today’s rapper is faced with two near-mutually exclusive choices: make rap music or sell records, one or the other. Continue making rap songs for rap fans in full knowledge that you are now cordoning yourself into a crowded niche economy, or go as M.O.R. as possible in a reach for demographics that still pay real money for music. This fundamental split is why we now have a rap song scaling the charts that, when played at an event I was at this Saturday, caused a teenage girl near me to blurt, “Is this the Backstreet Boys song?” upon hearing the intro. If only it were.
Anthony Easton: This reminds me of the 70s, when a string of comedown melancholic anthems about air travel leaked from LA and NY. I wish I liked this more, because there is nothing sadder or lovelier or more passive than “Daniel”, or “Planes and Trains” by Dionne Warwick, and it just sort of glops on noise and effect and ruins the potential.
Chuck Eddy: Has at least a smidgen of jet propulsion to it, and I’d rate both vocalists slightly better than competent. Don’t get the metaphor at all. I can probably name a couple hundred better airplane songs, but at least this beats the Chili Peppers.