Few rise to stardom as quickly as Don Toliver, whose collaborations with big-name artists and music’s tenure on social media apps have made him one of hip-hop’s most exciting names.
As trending as Toliver is, his third studio album “Love Sick” fails to bring anything new to his discography. Known for his hypnotizing vocals backed by heavy autotune and dark, minor-key instrumentals, “Love Sick” is a different rendition of his previous works sprinkled with pop elements.
Caleb Zackery “Don” Toliver was born in Houston and exploded into the mainstream music scene after his association with fellow Houston native rapper Travis Scott and his hit singles “After Party” and “Lemonade.”
Riding the popularity of these Tik Tok trending songs, Toliver released his second studio album, “The Life of a Don” in 2021, gaining critical approval as one of the most popular rappers in the new decade.
“Love Sick” is similar to “The Life of a Don,” as both are a decent coalition of similar-sounding tracks. The vocals sound the same as Toliver delivers powerful performances alongside the drum patterns with heavy 808s pounding in the listener’s ears.
The intro track, “LoveSickness,” quickly informs us that Toliver’s vocals will remain the main attraction of his music.
“4 me,” his track with his girlfriend and fellow artist Kali Uchis, stands out from the first half of the album, as both Uchis and Toliver deliver strong vocal performances with a catchy melody and original instrumental.
The strongest tracks of the album are “Honeymoon” and “Private Landing,” with Justin Bieber and Future featured on the latter. “Honeymoon” is the best Toliver has been since his feature in Metro Boomin’s “Too Many Nights,” and the track has an interesting instrumental that uses maracas and various sounds.
“Private Landing” sees Bieber revert back to R&B Bieber.Future provides what he always does on a rap song: toxicity.
“If I Had” featuring Charlie Wilson sees Toliver attempt to do his best SZA impression, with smoothing vocals backed by a blues-centric beat. Though Wilson takes over the track, Don holds his own as a singer.
Despite these bright moments, the album fails to separate itself from anything else Toliver has ever put out. It fails to provide the same entertainment that the rapper always brings when featured on someone else’s project.
The album’s strengths and Toliver’s talent only appear when he does something unique and different, which sadly happens on just a third of the project. Tracks like “Let Her Go,” “Leave The Club,” “Go Down,” “Time Heals All” and “Cinderella” blend together and put you to sleep despite their loud, annoying instrumentals, obnoxious autotune and reverb.
Toliver’s talent is undeniable. As a leading artist in the melodic rap genre with his own style of music, Toliver has more potential than peers like Travis Scott, who have helped bring Toliver into the spotlight. However, his strength has also become his weakness.
An artist that is chained to one sound or style will never grow. Many of today’s prominent artists have shown range in their music, but Don Toliver has yet to really expand his. When he does step out of his comfort zone, though, he makes unique music, but he has yet to do it at a high level in his own projects.