Is Tyler, The Creator’s ‘IGOR’ Really That Good?

In short, yes, but contrary to popular opinion, I don’t find that it is his most accessible album. IGOR is an infinitely layered album of hazy vocals, disarming lyricism, and adventurous production. This is an album that demands care and attention during the initial listening period. It’s a summery record, not in the way of uptempo songs of love and eternal youth, but in the way of a the delicate dawn and romantic dusk of a humid July day. Following a recent trend, most notably followed by superstars like Travis Scott and Kanye West, the artists who serve as guest collaborators on IGOR do not receive an official “featuring” credit. On every listen you’ll hear new background harmonies from Solange and Santigold, short verses from Playboi Carti and Kanye West, and ad-libs from slowthai and Lil Uzi Vert. IGOR is in a dead-heat with Flower Boy for the title of Tyler’s strongest record to date.

IGOR triumphs because of it’s directness. The songs are only long if absolutely necessary, and nothing feels drawn out or forced. “IGOR’S THEME,” which features background vocals from Lil Uzi Vert, previews the orchestral influences and overarching R&B sound of IGOR. It’s an incredibly layered track that is not made for passive listening. Every element works together in beautiful harmony, and it is a true testament to Tyler’s talent in production. From there, IGOR launches into back-to-back standouts. “EARFQUAKE,” which has uncredited contributions from Playboi Carti and Charlie Wilson, and “I THINK,” which features supporting vocals from Solange, work together to tell the story of the early stages of falling in love. The songs excel because the lyrics are charming and honest (“And it’s making my heart break/you make my earth quake”). Moreover, saccharine synths and groovy bass lines make the songs digestible and enjoyable.

Album artwork for IGOR. Source: Apple Music

On IGOR, Tyler employs a similar technique that his collaborator, Solange, used on her latest album, When I Get Home (my review here). On that album, Solange uses repetition as a ways to convince herself of her own personal truths or as an exercise of manifestation. Tyler’s repetition is more in this vein than in the way that lazy hooks and choruses can be repetitive. Tyler’s use of repetition also helps bridge tracks together. A common lyric on IGOR is “for real,” because much of this album is a journey that charts Tyler’s emotional and mental state in the context of his reality and the physical world around him. The early stages of love soon turn into borderline obsession on “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” and “NEW MAGIC WAND.” These are decidedly more aggressive tracks that explore Tyler’s innate desire to be truly wanted by the person he loves. The songs are erratic and sometimes uncomfortable which is reflected in the intense production, especially on the latter track which features background vocals from Santigold. Between “NEW MAGIC WAND” and the subsequent track, “A BOY IS A GUN,” IGOR reaches its climax. This love may quite literally kill Tyler. The latter track has political echoes of the murder of Trayvon Martin, but the real message is how quickly love can become the most dangerous thing in a person’s life. This message is emphasized by the Kanye West-assisted “PUPPET,” another track about how controlling love has the potential to be.

The last four tracks on IGOR find Tyler escaping and recovering from that disastrous love that the earlier tracks praised. On the slowthai-assisted “WHAT’S GOOD,” Tylers has “no tears to cry” and his “eyes are open now, [he] sees the light” and “the lie.” Out of context, this song would work well in any workout or ego-boosting playlist, but in the context of IGOR the song is a triumphant return to Tyler’s independence in the face of a doomed relationship. “GONE GONE/THANK YOU,” which features an impressive vocal performance from CeeLo Green, is a 6-minute epic farewell to love. “My love is gone,” Tyler sings, “Thank you for the love/Thank you for the joy/But I am never going to fall in love again.” Akin to the majority of IGOR, Tyler has a nuanced sweetness and appreciation for life experiences on this track. Unlike Tyler’s past albums, specifically Goblin or Cherry Bomb, where his anger would overpower series of tracks, Tyler shows a greater level of maturity throughout IGOR. The final two tracks, are lofty and light pop songs that handle the awkward topic of post-romance friendships. Ryan Beatty contributes to the penultimate track, “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” and Pharrell offers supporting vocals on the final track, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” For all the maturity that Tyler displays on IGOR, these last two tracks are anchored by a fragile innocence that offers a small peek into his pain.

IGOR is easily one of the top albums of 2019, and it is Tyler’s most honest work to date.

Key Tracks: “Earfquake”; “A Boy Is a Gun”; “Are We Still Friends?”



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