In 2017, Tyler the Creator released his 5th album Flower Boy. Critics would hail this project as Tyler’s most mature and consistent album of his career thus far and the dramatic shift in character from Tyler’s dark, almost psychotic personality on albums like Bastard and Goblin, to a much more introspective and vulnerable persona proved to be one of the most successful image re-brandings in recent music history. So when he began teasing the release of his next album Igor, the anticipation to see what direction Tyler’s career would take following on from the enormous success of Flower Boy was incredibly high. Whilst I would still personally rank that project as my favourite in his discography so far, Igor is definitely a close second and over time I do feel that it has the potential to challenge the number one spot.
Right from the outset of Igor, Tyler makes sure that the audience should leave all expectations of this being ‘Flower Boy 2’. The opening track Igor’s Theme starts with 25 seconds of one long continuous synth-line. It’s ominous and builds a brooding atmosphere that persists as the album continues. Then on the second track Earfquake, our expectations are once again subverted with the inclusion of a light and sweet sounding songs complete with simple, yet endearing lyrics about the love Tyler has for a person. With all preconceptions of where he may have gone with Igor out of the window, Tyler then spends the rest of the album flexing his production muscles, demonstrating how much experience and talent he has gained since he first began making music. At frequent points on Igor it’s Tyler’s mastery over the instrumentals or a track (especially when using synths) that makes a song as good as it is. For instance, I would regard the song Running Out of Time as one of the weaker songs on the album, and yet because the production is consistently evolving throughout the song it remains interesting and makes it a lot more replayable that it otherwise would be. The song – much like others like A Boy is a Gun and Earfquake – is innocent, charming and gets across the affection and at times obsession Tyler has for the person he’s talking about.However, this album is not at all one note or entirely wholesome when it comes to the sound and tone. Tyler still presents some brutal and horrific that he became known for in the early stages of his career on tracks like New Magic Wand and What’s Good which manage to pack a heavy punch of resentment and conflicted feelings that begin to evolve as the narrative of the album progresses.
Tyler’s delivery also changes significantly as the album switches between the lighter and darker songs. His voice is often manipulated like on the final verse of What’s Good, making the song sound much more twisted and unhinged so as to fit with the equally sinister production. During these points on the album Tyler also more often chooses to rap rather than attempting to sing like he does on the more vulnerable songs. Whilst Tyler does by no means have the best singing voice, opting to manipulate his voice rather than having his natural voice in many parts of the album, I don’t believe this is to the detriment of the overall quality of the project. The shakiness of his voice and the lack of noticeable quality make each song seem more innocent and relatable in the sense that this isn’t an extremely talented singer recounting an experience, but instead just some guy who is trying to deal with an emotional situation. For instance the choice to pitch-shift his voice on the first half of Gone ,Gone / Thank You gives Tyler a childlike quality, adding to the sincerity of the song.
The last element to cover on Igor is the features. Whilst the absence of any other names on the Spotify track list may make it appear that this is a purely solo effort from Tyler, there indeed a few collaborator’s sprinkled throughout the album. Playboi Carti has a verse on Earfquake, Kanye West is on Puppet and Pharrell Williams is on the closing track. But what is different between the features on Igor and the features on Flower Boy is the fact that whilst on Flower Boy artists like Kali Uchis or Frank Ocean may sometimes steal the spot light away from Tyler, the features on Igor seem to serve the album as a whole and the overall narrative of the project. Whilst there are many interpretations of what the overarching story of Igor, one such theory stated that Kanye’s inclusion on Puppets is to serve as a conscience or outside influence on the main character of the album. Either way, no matter what theory you subscribe to, what I believe is important to note is the fact that whilst they are used effectively, they never overstay their welcome or overshadow Tyler, allowing the personal nature of the experiences detailed throughout.
Overall, whilst Igor may not be the album I expected to hear following the incredible success of Flower Boy, I feel like it is the album Tyler needed to make. Not only does it show the progress he has made since his first album in terms of production quality and his ability to structure a narrative throughout a project, but it also shows that Tyler the Creator is not an artist who bows to the wants of the public and will continue making the albums that he as an artist wants to make.