After his departure from a much-grittier sound that connotates controversy, Tyler, the Creator attempts to bridge the gap between his shift in mellow production and a darker soundscape in his latest project, IGOR—and succeeds. IGOR recently reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart, proving a first-time chart-topping album and major career milestone for Tyler, the Creator.
IGOR, NUMBER UNO, STANK YOU
— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) May 27, 2019
Heavy laden with synths and funky grooves, Tyler aptly stated that IGOR is different from his previous studio albums. If listeners were expecting a rap album, then they will be surprised that IGOR pays homage to 80s synthpop and 70s funk. In order to immerse in the album’s experimental arrangements, listeners should have no distractions or interruptions. After releasing his critically-acclaimed Flower Boy in 2017 and teasing four snippets in the lead-up to IGOR‘s debut, Tyler, the Creator reinvents himself as a character named Igor that experiences the thematic journey of love and describes his struggle as an artist trying to appeal to his fanbase.
— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) May 17, 2019
According to a recent interview with Jerrod Carmichael, Tyler revealed that Cherry Bomb is his favorite album, and Flower Boy is his best project to date. However, Cherry Bomb was subjected to criticism based on its usage of vocal manipulation and distorted production. Compared to Flower Boy, Cherry Bomb did not delve deep into Tyler’s vulnerability and details on his personal life. As a result, Tyler sought to rectify the negativity that emanated from his third studio album to create IGOR.
Sprinkled with raw emotion from a plethora of features, vocal manipulation is a prominent feature that showcases a psychedelic aesthetic. Tyler hones in his versatility as an artist with a meticulous blend of scintillating melodies and crisp instrumentation. Riddled with a variety of effects and beat switches, his undaunted approach in production highlights his growth in musicality.
As one of the four snippets, the introduction transforms the listener into a whirlwind of bass synths and a hypnotic drum pattern that sets the album’s tone. Initially, a long-drawn-out note encapsulates “IGOR’S THEME” until acoustic drums enter the picture. Vocal samples force the listener to pay attention to Tyler’s layered production. As a prime example of vocal manipulation, the effects used on Lil Uzi Vert‘s voice will be the first of many features masking their original sound. Sonically, Tyler’s artistry lends itself to blend a dash of nostalgic instrumentation and modernized stabs of crunchy synths. Comparative to Sam Gellaitry and Mr. Carmack, incorporation of older samples provides a seasoned palette of sounds that can be reintroduced to a new audience. Thematically, the repetitive chorus by Tyler, Lil Uzi, and Solange may reflect a PSA coded for fans to listen to the album while driving. As the song reaches its climax, a burst of infectious energy exudes from a multitude of syncopated synths that lead into a piano melody.
As a personal standout, “EARFQUAKE” plants the seed of Igor’s blossoming love story as the album’s main subject. Visually, Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross plays a talk show host that introduces Igor as the fictitious show’s performer. Dressed in a sky blue suit, adorned with gold chains, and donning a blonde wig, Tyler commands the microphone in a throwback of sorts to a ’70s talk show. When Tyler plays the piano, a fire starts to set the studio ablaze to symbolize Igor’s strong emotions for someone he cares deeply about. The scene transitions to Tyler in firefighter gear as a metaphor to extinguish the desire he has for a love interest. As for the track itself, Tyler’s reverbed vocals are pitched high to match Charlie Wilson‘s energy on the track. As the song wavers on, Playboi Carti adds a refreshing take on mumble rap in a quick piano breakdown. The saturated production features a vintage drum kit, a synthesizer, piano, and violin arranged in cohesive fashion. The album’s strong suit is the amalgamation of sounds that flows seamlessly into each successive track.
However, “A BOY IS A GUN” may very well exemplify Tyler’s versatility as an artist and producer. Based on its song structure alone, listeners may be familiar with the track’s muddled production that utilizes a simplistic groove, a pitched sample, and unwavering refrains. In 2013, Tyler assisted Kanye West to create a version of “Bound 2” on Yeezus that incorporated his original percussion. However, the final version did not include his contribution on the ten-track album. Several years later, Tyler revisited this track and chopped a different section in “Bound” by Ponderosa Twins Plus One. As a musician, Tyler showcases his prowess on the piano with a variety of melodies that complement each verse and chorus. Similar to Kanye’s flow and cadence, Tyler also presents his influences as an artist by adding a unique take on a ’70s soul sample. Lyrically, Tyler continues to explore his sexuality and addresses the toxicity of his love interest.
Similar to the previous track, “PUPPET” doubles down on the Kanye influences by featuring a muffled Kanye West buried underneath ominous instrumentation. The frantic energy reflects Igor’s unhealthy behavior in pleasing his love interest at every whim. As the track enters a barrage dissonant synths, Igor realizes being controlled in this relationship consumes him more than the bliss he felt in the beginning. Tyler elicits this aggression in “NEW MAGIC WAND” and “WHAT’S GOOD” with distorted vocals and pompous drums. Although the former track discusses Igor’s violent mentality to attain his desired relationship, the latter breaks the fourth wall to introduce Tyler’s songwriting ability as himself. As a head-nodding jam, “I THINK” contains a fusion of funk and house comparable to an ’80s dance hit. Similar to “Stronger” by Kanye West, the futuristic synth pattern and bouncy drums provide the perfecting landing spot for Igor’s confession of his love. One of the album’s main highlights introduces an ode to 1960s surf music in the first half of “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU.” After Igor’s relationship crumbled, his optimism allows him to embrace the disastrous situation in a level-headed manner. On the second half, Tyler samples “Fragile” by Tatsuro Yamashita to express Igor’s acceptance of the relationship’s finality. The album rounds out with Igor’s struggle to move on from his toxic environment by crooning for friendship in “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” respectively.
Overall, the album’s theme has a sequential journey of falling in love with someone, trying to act upon on this feeling, eliciting an obsession, realizing the relationship isn’t working, breaking up with the person, and trying to be friends with a former significant other. Tyler, the Creator’s ambition as a songwriter, producer, and artist pushes the boundaries on how music is meant to be heard in the modern age. Conceptually, the subject matter blurs the lines with similarities between Igor as a character and Tyler as an artist. Specifically, Tyler, the Creator took the criticism of Cherry Bomb and the effect of a breakup to air his personal feelings on a creative medium. His capability to combine several genres such as synthpop, soul, R&B, hip hop, funk, and psychedelia is a blueprint for other artists to expand their musicality.
Be sure to check out Tyler’s latest performance on Apple Music and his latest album below: