In 2016, Tory Lanez released his debut solo project, “I Told You,” an album that was riddled with problems from the start. It not only reflected Lanez’s lack of individuality in comparison to other Toronto rappers and R&B crooners, but was riddled with skits whose purpose didn’t amount to much other than unnecessarily extending the length of an already lengthy listen. Now, Lanez has made a return with his sophomore album, “Memories Don’t Die,” but unfortunately, rather than being the triumphant declaration of individuality he intended for this project to be, the album simply delivers more of the same.
Like its predecessor, “Memories Don’t Die” has a distinct lack of originality that rings through nearly every track. And while Lanez directly addresses these criticisms and vocalizes his frustrations with all the comparisons to other artists on verses in this album (“Give a fuck ’bout who get pissed about by samples and skits”), I can’t help but wonder how intent he is on mending these flaws when half of this album’s tracks feel like they’re the Great Value version of Drake or PARTYNEXTDOOR.
The beat on “B.B.W.W. x Fake Show’”s first half sounds like a less hard-hitting “Panda,” with Lanez’s flow mirroring Desiinger’s to a T. The latter half of this track slows down and turns into a more atmospheric and sadder mood that is really just an imitation of the style and sound from Drake’s ”Take Care.” Again the flow is something you’ve heard before, since Lanez’s verse here has that long-winded and talky delivery Drake is known for.
But probably the most egregious offender of this unoriginality would be the track “Hypnotized,” which, from its introduction sounds like a carbon copy of “Closer” by The Chainsmokers. Lanez even reflects this in his vocals, which carry that same melodic, slightly autotuned tone as Andrew Taggart’s contribution to The Chainsmokers’ track. While artists are completely free to borrow concepts and styles from their contemporaries, this instance is a little harder to defend, bordering on mimicry. As a whole, this track feels out of place in the context of this album, which, aside from this track, emulates a fusion of pop and trap rap.
None of this is to say that there are no good moments on this album. The track “Benevolent,” while not offering a particularly deep or contemplative perspective, has some of the smoothest production from start to finish on the entire album. The first half of the track has a sleek, dark trap beat which Lanez matches with an equally smoothly paced verse that makes for an enjoyable listen. The latter half of the track transitions into what ends up being my favorite moment off the entire album, mostly because I’m a sucker for triumphant horns paired with gospel choir vocals. With a slowed down flow and braggadocious lyrics to match, Lanez really sounds like he’s coming into his own and it’s very clear that he feels confident on this track.
“Benevolent” ends up serving as a display of the wasted potential of this album — if Lanez had exerted this same level of confidence on other creative decisions, “Memories Don’t Die” could have been the start of a new chapter in his career, one where he forms an identity outside the shadow of popular Toronto artists such as Drake or The Weeknd. But instead, Lanez seems to lack confidence, especially when he insists on singing or borrowing another artist’s flow instead of exercising the talented rapping he has proven capable of.
Verdict: “Memories Don’t Die” is OK, but lacks anything truly noteworthy. While there are definitely some hidden standout moments, it’s imitations of other artist’s styles are not good enough to warrant attention. You’d be better off listening to the artists Tory Lanez is imitating than the album itself.