What a pivotal point the illustrious career of Tyler, the Creator has come to in 2019.
After five albums, numerous clothing releases and commercial success, he has seemed to reach a stage where creative direction is most important, having found a freedom to experiment with new sounds and styles after “Flower Boy’s” success.
Similar developments have taken place within his fan base as the decade has progressed.
The rebellious teenagers who pledged their allegiance to Odd Future in the early 2010’s have grown up, older folks who turned their noses at “Bastard” and “Goblin” may have been pleasantly surprised by “Flower Boy,” and the generation too young to remember Odd Future’s reign has embraced Tyler’s recent work as a soundtrack to their youth, excited for a new album to help define their adolescence.
“IGOR” was released on May 17, with no previous singles or listed features. Tyler has previously alluded to the album he strives to make one day, layering lush chords in place of hip-hop elements, as close to complete personal satisfaction as possible.
“IGOR” is a huge stepping stone on the way to creating this perfect album, but its numerous flaws show that Tyler hasn’t quite reached his peak.
This project has many gorgeous, dreamlike sequences that are refreshing in today’s mainstream hip-hop climate, however the cringe-inducing moments are almost as common.
“IGOR’S THEME” serves as a fantastic opener to the album by introducing dirty synth-basslines, blending features seamlessly with Tyler’s own vocals, and previewing the sharp contrasts between smooth and gritty instruments.
This intro feels dystopian, the perfect theme music for walking away from an explosion as credits roll.
The album continues with hit after hit as Tyler walks the tightrope of experimentation with ease, blending pop, soul, and hip-hop influences in a unique way. Many of “IGOR’s” highest highs are found in the first half of the album.
Playboi Carti’s brief interlude on “EARFQUAKE” rapidly builds tension over a jazzy piano run, boiling over as Charlie Wilson and Tyler’s chorus returns in full swing.
The breezy bridge of “I THINK” melted faces on Twitter, but the entire song is extremely catchy, from its infectious bassline to the rhythmic drums, accented by Solange’s background harmonies.
Tyler takes a short break from the pop songs during “NEW MAGIC WAND,” a track made for moshing, thanks to an angry 808 bass, and a sticky hook.
Halfway through the tracklist is where “IGOR” starts to falter. “A BOY IS A GUN” is busy, juggling a rollercoaster of a bassline, frequent soul samples, and multiple piano tracks.
“WHAT’S GOOD” is personally the lowest point on the album, the three minutes and 26 seconds difficult to finish. The annoying guitar melody of the second half, the overly aggressive 808, and the rampant distortion do not mesh, resulting in a complete mess of a song.
“GONE GONE” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” both have annoying hooks, along with quite a few other problems.
The closing track, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS” has given me more confusion than any other track throughout my listening of “IGOR”. It’s a beautifully smooth song, straight out of a high school slow dance, and it’s refreshing to hear Tyler’s unaltered vocals after 35 minutes, making for a satisfying conclusion to the album.
At the same time, the school dance feeling coming from the Al Green sample is borderline cheesy. The lush instrumental makes Tyler’s offbeat vocals tolerable, giving off a sense of personal acceptance for his somewhat limited vocal range.
Tyler wears his influences on his sleeve like never before on “IGOR”, for both good and bad. “I THINK” is very reminiscent of Pharrell’s production, in the best way possible.
On the other hand, “WHAT’S GOOD” was also clearly influenced by N.E.R.D.’s rock-based songs, in the absolute worst way possible.
A few tracks, chiefly “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”, use similar electric guitar to Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” usually working pretty well. By using that guitar, along with heavily filtered vocals, “THANK YOU” almost feels like a Walmart version of “Runaway.”
Tyler’s experimentation on “IGOR” is what created the aforementioned highs, but songs clash as Tyler incorporates instruments of wildly different tone and emotion side by side.
For example, gorgeous piano runs are thrown into “A BOY IS A GUN” and “WHAT’S GOOD,” making me wish they were used in more appropriate songs.
Part of me really appreciates the use of unconventional song structures on this album, but another part wishes for more consistency throughout songs.
This review has primarily centered around “IGOR’s” production, because Tyler’s lyrics and vocals are more minimal than even “Flower Boy,” where he let features take vocal control for a significant portion of the project.
Tyler’s vocals here are generally indistinguishable from his collaborators, and the use of effects lessens their impact even more.
“IGOR” has an interesting narrative of Tyler falling in and out of a boy who won’t leave his girlfriend, but the lyrics themselves are nothing noteworthy, and the sonic tone usually progresses the story.
Tyler tries singing more often than rapping on this album, his shortcomings more apparent than ever. He ditches the pitch effects on “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS,” his singing not great, but still heartwarming due to the song’s sentiments.
“IGOR” is another successful album for Tyler, the Creator as he continues to occupy a niche in between genres yet in the center stage of the mainstream.
All listeners can surely appreciate that Tyler’s musical style has become more eclectic as his fame increases, instead of steering towards a more commercial sound.
“IGOR” is dreamy and thought provoking, a breakup album like few others before it, despite its flaws.
Many fans were hoping for rapping Tyler, or even “Flower Boy” Tyler, but everyone should be happy to welcome “IGOR” Tyler, for the sake of experimentation at the very least.