IGOR by Tyler, The Creator | Album Review
A review of the Grammy award-winning fifth studio album from Tyler, The Creator
Simply put, IGOR is probably Tyler, The Creator’s best album. Having been entirely produced by the artist himself, the innovative and almost dramatic production pays homage to other legendary influences such as Kanye and Pharrell. The album itself focuses on love and heartbreak as hinted by the pink background of the album cover. This album was another step removed from the grotesque, outrage rap of an earlier era and another step in the direction of genre fluid music as a source of catharsis as hinted in Flowerboy (of which a review can be found here).
IGOR begins with the ear-rattling “IGOR’S THEME”, a cacophony of synth, static, and bass with a focus on swooning vocals and harmonization. While the song doesn’t necessarily reveal what is to come in the album thematically, it does provide expectations. With a little help from Solange and Lil Uzi Vert, Tyler says “Ridin’ ‘round town, they gon’ feel this one” and that’s largely it. This is further emphasized, or rather highlighted, by the technicality of the production. There are so many different snippets of vocals and samples interwoven in a simple message, it feels that the choral statement can only be true.
The next song, “EARFQUAKE”, is perhaps the most recognizable and popular song. It’s here we are truly introduced to the theme of the album — damaging love. As one might expect, this love is earth shattering, shaky, and almost hemorrhagic. Again Uzi makes an appearance in a verse, that I feel may not have added anything particularly great or necessary. A focus on this album was the inclusion of singing vocals — something that we hadn’t seen too much from this artist in works past. This causes the album to blur the lines of traditional hip hop album signage, yet there are some rap elements present.
The next song, “I THINK”, more so captures the introductory phrase. The song rides high along trumpet and high-bass melodies with beautiful up-pitched vocals from Solange and Tyler. The song, filled to the brim with up-and-down synths is wandering and travels from ear to ear (literally) as the chorus rings, “I think I’ve fallen in love”. This truly feels like a song you’d listen to riding in the car with the windows down as the sun droops below the horizon. This is my personal favorite song because it just revels in that newfound love, one that is epitomized by the color pink. Lastly, a side note on the album is the repetition of “Skate, four”. This has been theorized as an homage to the famous skateboarding video game franchise Skate, and a plead to release the next installment of the game (please!).
As we are slowly introduced to this love interest, more is revealed through “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”. As expected, Tyler is running out of time to make this person love him, in part due to the introduction of a love triangle including this person and their ex-girlfriend. This is further expounded on in the next track. As the artist drowns in the thought of this person, they seem undecided and he recognizes that. In an attempt to convince, “NEW MAGIC WAND”, delves into persuasion through begging and the emphasis on being and/or using a new magic wand to make their problems disappear. It’s actually beautiful how these two songs and the following use the same metaphor — an almost hostage-like situation — to describe the urgency of this relationship.
And like gun ownership, this love is dangerous yet desirable. This is the central theme of “A BOY IS A GUN”. This song is confirmation of the love triangle between Tyler, a man, and a woman. Most notably, this song makes use of a “Bound” sample, an homage to Kanye and his worth with “Bound 2” which Tyler had a hand in producing. The double entendres run clean through this song with the “boy” holding the gun and therefore the power to shoot the artist down. In a contradictory and almost submissive revelation, the song ends with “stay the fuck away from me”. Further exacerbating this contradiction is the next song where Tyler and Kanye describe being a puppet to this person, highlighting the distorting nature of “being under a lovers thumb” (Genius).
My next favorite song comes in “WHAT’S GOOD”. Here is a quick return to a harsh and hype delivered rap that touches on a Cherry Bomb and Wolf era style. This is one of the only songs that feature mostly rapping and is a nice break from the high-vocal saturation of the first half of the album. In addition to style abbreviation, the theme of the song takes a break as well by harping on braggadocious lines and enlightenment in the rap game. The last line of the song hints to the theme in the rest of the album:
I don’t know what’s harder, letting go or just being okay with it
Perhaps the most interesting of the songs is the continued series of songs that usually broach six minute run times and is stylized as “X / X”, usually in the tenth spot in the track list. With “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” the next addition to this series embraces the lost love of the person in the aforementioned songs. The first half of the song almost proudly declares, “my love’s gone”. This both refers to the physical person being gone and his own love being gone as further evidenced by the following song “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE”. We see closure and acceptance in losing this person as they ultimately chose the third person over Tyler. The second half of the song is a brief, yet hurt thank you to this person for the good times. However grateful, the artist is still hurt, declaring “ I don’t ever want to fall in love again”.
The sweet broodiness of this song is rudely contrasted by the next song. The crooning “I don’t love you anymore” of the chorus is almost childlike in its delivery and further emphasizes the improbability that this decision is final. It’s almost like a child talking to their mother after being scolded — we know they don’t mean it, but they’re in an emotionally vulnerable position. It’s understandable. The purgatory between love and loss is an undesirable place to be. The album wraps up with the inquisitive “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” where the song is largely just the repetition of that question.
It’s easy to say this could be Tyler, The Creator’s best album as the production and experimentalism is next level. It won a Grammy after all. I feel like Flowerboy is more so my favorite, but I can agree that up to this point, because the album is so well put together, that IGOR is his best album. The Kanye influence and reverence is so clear if you are familiar with the style and its admirable how Tyler is able to emulate that. Call Me If You Get Lost is an admirable followup as well and I would still say this album takes the cake.
Favorite Tracks: I THINK, WHAT’S GOOD, GONE,GONE/THANK YOU
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Love this review!! Glad someone thinks the same as me when we say IGOR is the Tyler opus.