QUICKSPINS: Love Sick – Don Toliver

The Houston artist goes R&B — which works until it doesn’t

Don Toliver is one of those rare enigmatic artists, where it can be difficult to predict what his next album (or even song) may sound like. Many fans were introduced to his unique voice on Travis Scott’s 2018 song “CAN’T SAY” — which prompted some hilarious comparisons to singer Akon.

While Toliver has released a few downtempo songs, his new record Love Sick is his full-length foray into the world of slower, more seductive R&B. On paper, it seems like a match made in heaven, given his now-signature voice and knack for catchy melodies. But in reality, his vocal performance is easily the most forgettable part of this album.  

Toliver’s voice is nice to listen to, but that’s about as far as it gets. While it is refreshing to hear him experiment with a slower sound, some songs can drone on and sound quite forgettable. So much so that the novelty of hearing Toliver on unfamiliar productions wears off quickly. This leads to a few bland tracks, especially as the album goes on. By the time we get to songs like “Cinderella,” he sings in circles, and his melodies end up going nowhere. On tracks like “Private Landing,” he flat out sounds disinterested.

It’s a disappointing showing for an artist whose greatest asset is his voice.

The production, however, is anything but forgettable. Instrumentally, we are hearing Toliver at his most experimental, which serves as the redeeming factor for a lot of songs. The Houston artist hops on Kaytranada’s production and New Jersey club-inspired beats, among other interesting choices.

Lush, moody, and layered soundscapes provide the backdrop for most of the album, whereas scintillating guitars shine through others. Songs like “Leave the Club” showcase a more familiar bouncy trap sound. The intro, “LoveSickness,” sets the tone by being somewhere in the middle.

A few of the creative choices on this album are questionable: Justin Bieber’s insistence to “keep going” on “Private Landing” is one such instance. Fans hoping to hear Toro y Moi are also likely to be disappointed, as his vocals are heavily altered and thrown on the outro of “Cinderella.” The very numerous features, in general, are hit or miss.

Some tracks on Love Sick definitely demonstrate that Toliver can continue to make great music — “Let Her Go” and “Slow Motion” are shining examples. Unfortunately, tracks like these get drowned out by the album’s other underwhelming songs. While ambitious, the album falls far short of reaching its true potential.

Trial track: Slow Motion (feat. Wizkid)


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