Tyler, the Creator has been at times crude, romantic, antagonistic or braggadocious, among other qualities. What he has always been, however, is an auteur. Throughout Odd Future and its demise, Tyler has always strived for his own style, for better or worse. On his sixth record, IGOR, Tyler applies that N.E.R.D.-indebted style to a downward spiral of heartbreak and uncertainty.
Tyler’s typical volatility is soured by this heartbreak, one that he manages to come to terms with over the course of the record, as his “favourite garcon” chooses his female partner over Tyler. Or more appropriate is the distraught 28-year-old coming to his own terms, ending the album on the pleading ‘ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?’
Since 2017’s Flower Boy, Tyler has freed himself from the violence of his earlier albums and has since revelled in the freedoms, complications, and contradictions of being in love. On ‘PUPPET,’ he asks, “I am startin’ to wonder/ Is this my free will or yours? (Yours, yours, yours).”
The sugary keys and overall funk mask the anguished lyrics, making this a breakup album fit for summer afternoons. The anger in his lyrics seems to the fade, however, the more Tyler opts to sing, the quality exception being ‘WHAT’S GOOD.’ For the former, the album never exceeds the neo-soul harmonies of ‘EARFQUAKE.’ The traditional hook and two bars of sixteens are almost non-existent on this album. He doesn’t care if his tones don’t match the bubbling production or even if it constitutes ‘good’ singing, giving further thematic weight to the failed rescue of his relationship.
Tyler’s shortest record at 39 minutes, IGOR’s 12 tracks almost act as bridges into each other, as most don’t traditionally end. Tyler had tweeted about the bridge on ‘I THINK,’ and even if it comes across as a tad obnoxious, its hard not to become enraptured by its meticulous synths.
At this point in his career, he can keep his high-profile guests in the background. Jerrod Carmichael intones during four tracks in order to sketch out their narrative arc. Solange shows up for a few guest vocals, as does Lil Uzi Vert, but you’d hardly know it without credits. The same goes for Kanye West’s garbled feature. Playboi Carti has the standout appearance, and it’s all of 25 seconds. Santigold, La Roux, Pharrell and CeeLo Green among others also drop by for some impressionistic additions.
The happy/sad, R&B/funk mélange of IGOR is undeniably written, produced and arranged by Tyler, the Creator. This time, it’s for the better.
Standout Tracks: ‘EARFQUAKE,’ ‘I THINK,’ ‘A BOY IS A GUN,’ ‘ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?’