Album Review: Tyler, the Creator's 'IGOR'

I admittedly haven’t written an album review in a minute. It’s June, I know, and there’s been a number of projects this year that deserved a blog post. Blame it on lack of inspiration, being overwhelmed with adult life, writer’s block, what have you.

The truth is, as much as I loved other releases from 2019, not one of them moved me enough to make me sit down and write something. That is, until Tyler, the Creator dropped the follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2017 album (and my number-one pick of the year), Flower Boy.

There was a lot of speculation, and some skepticism, as to whether Tyler would be able to top the enormous praise he received with Flower Boy. For those that were fans of him from Goblin and Wolf days, 2017 marked a wild departure from the roach-eating, over-the-top offensiveness and grit displayed in his musical roots. Quite frankly, it was hard for me to even listen to some of his old songs without feeling guilty for enjoying them. Perhaps that’s why Flower Boy, with all of its colorful, flowery, heartfelt subject matter and masterfully designed concept, was such a winner. Sometimes it’s frustrating to see your favorite artists change their style and abandon what made them brilliant. In Tyler’s case, though, sometimes the musical evolution changes the artist from a run-of-the-mill favorite, to a legend.

So here I am, sitting on a barstool in a coffee shop, forcing myself to spend some time expressing my deep gratitude for the sonic and visual masterpiece that is IGOR. Forget topping Flower Boy, try following it up with an equally-impressive experimental journey. IGOR, donning a neon suit and blonde bowl-cut wig, stands on its own very strong two legs. In fact, I think this may be the project that encourages the masses to reconsider their opinions of Tyler. He’s no longer his problematic younger self— he’s fully grown into his musical talents, and it’s just now beginning to show.

While Flower Boy was a soul-searching journey through self discovery and acceptance, IGOR is a journey through an unhealthy relationship. A love-triangle between IGOR, a mysterious male figure, and the man’s assumedly unwitting girlfriend. Narrated by the great Jerrod Carmichael, IGOR takes us through the initial stages of this relationship to its challenging end— a rollercoaster of infatuation, jealousy, hurt and ultimate reparation— a ride that most people, including myself, can likely relate to.

We are introduced to IGOR on the album’s opening track- “IGOR’S THEME”. A distorted synth, accompanied by vocals from Lil Uzi Vert, set the scene. Off the bat, it’s hype, it’s sinister, it’s exciting. Tyler once again displays his mastery of production, even without fully entering the track. We’re then transported into “EARFQUAKE”— an upbeat, cheerful dance tune on its surface, with a dark side. Here we begin to understand the concept of the album. IGOR/Tyler is singing about someone in his life, powerful enough to shake up his whole world— “Don’t leave, it’s my fault, cause when it all comes crashing down, I’ll need you.” We’re thrown into a dynamic that’s currently unclear— Who is this person, and why are they leaving? To me, it seems IGOR is struggling with having feelings for this person, but those feelings are going unreciprocated— and he’s pleading for some sort of sign that the connection is real. The chorus, assisted by the iconic Dev Hynes, instantly sticks to your head. (P.S., props to the Genius writer that had to decipher Playboi Carti’s verse).

Hoping to learn some more information, we’re blessed by “I THINK”. Without a doubt my favorite track, and a shining moment in Tyler’s musical career, “I THINK” further outlines this mysterious relationship. Now we know for certain— IGOR’s falling in love, but again, the other person hasn’t expressed the same sentiment. The undeniably infectious beat on this song has had me shamelessly dancing around the past two weeks. For now, IGOR’s demeanor remains benign. And by the end of this track, we’ve reached the end of the first quarter. Jerrod Carmichael’s interlude leads us into part two.

On “RUNNING OUT OF TIME,” our hero starts hinting at desperation. This song also feels like a call back to Flower Boy, thematically and in mood. Of course, you could tie it back to “I Ain’t Got Time!”— but instead of not having time for people that want to mooch off of Tyler’s success, he doesn’t have time to wait for his love interest to show his true self. “Take your mask off, it need it out the picture” implies something’s being hidden, and that something is preventing IGOR from making this relationship a reality. The picture’s becoming clearer now. Then it’s ripped wide open on “NEW MAGIC WAND.”

No more benign IGOR. “NEW MAGIC WAND” is raucous, unapologetic and menacing, and I love it. In my head I imagine IGOR sitting at a computer, messing around with Photoshop, doing everything in his power to erase the opposite end of this love triangle— his love interest’s girlfriend. Kind of like how internet weirdos put their faces on stranger’s bodies to make it look like they’re hugging their celebrity crush. At first, we’re led to believe this is fairly innocent— the “magic wand” in question is simply a photo-editing tool— but by song’s end, the obsession turns violent, and the “magic wand” sounds more like a deadly weapon. “NEW MAGIC WAND” not only serves as a turning point in IGOR’s character development, but is also likely to please Tyler’s long-time fans who want to lose their minds in a mosh pit. (I will be one of those people.) There are so many reasons to love this song— the grittiness, the build-up, the lyrical cleverness— all of it.

Following the subtle implication to having a “deadly weapon”— “A BOY IS A GUN*” serves as IGOR’s last ditch-effort to salvage whatever’s left of this uncomfortable relationship, before giving up and moving on: “Give a f*** what they talkin’ bout, I see you as a 10/Imma leave it at that, Imma leave us as friends, cause this irony is I don’t wanna see you again.” Signaling the end of IGOR’s pursuit of this person, this line is also an interesting callback to Flower Boy’s "See You Again”. Is this person the same “ideal lover” described on “See You Again?” Maybe so. The song ends with one line in repetition— “stay the f*** away from me,” which ironically leads into “PUPPET”.

Tyler’s rap verse on “PUPPET” perfectly lays out the controlling nature of an unhealthy relationship, and again displays his exceptional lyrical aptitude. Despite demanding this person to stay away from him less than a minute ago, we see IGOR desperately bending to his will and trying to accommodate his needs. His self-profession as being a “puppet” is supported by vocals from Kanye West (“Did I wait too long?”). Interestingly enough, the previous track sampled “Bound” by the Ponderosa Twins, as in Kanye’s “Bound 2”. Hmmm. There’s levels to it.

Anyway, as Jerrod Carmichael leads us to the final stage of IGOR’s development, we’re slapped with “WHAT’S GOOD”— an abruptly aggressive turn into what feels like the brother to “Who Dat Boy”. It’s a brush-up on IGOR’s ego, an angry rebuttal to being rejected by his love interest— and a 180 to the character we heard on “PUPPET”. In this sense, “WHAT’S GOOD” acts as IGOR’s revelatory moment. His love interest wasn’t giving him what he wanted, now he’s moving on and reestablishing himself as someone not to be messed with. The track ends with Jerrod- “I don’t know what’s harder… letting go or just being okay with it.”

Thus, we begin our reparations. “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU” is refreshingly happy-sounding, but heartbreakingly bittersweet. Lyrics like “At least I had it, instead of never” and “my love’s gone” featuring vocals from Cee-Lo Green drive-home the point: IGOR’s letting go. Perhaps one of my favorite moments on the album appears here:

“I just hope to god she got good taste

To put you on some shit you never seen

Could play a couple songs that you can dance to

I hope you know she can’t compete with me”

The final verse in “GONE, GONE” is monumental, displaying IGOR’s acceptance that the relationship has ended. He’s lost the proverbial battle, but recognizes that he was true to himself and finds peace in this. “THANK YOU” is, fittingly, a thank-you note to his love, and a declaration that he doesn’t want to be in love again, presumedly because of the hurt it has caused. Same though, same.

“I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” is the penultimate piece of IGOR’s story— a straight-forward message of progress, showing that he’s finally gotten over his obsession and recognizes the strength in letting go. “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” neatly wraps up the album’s theme. While not a lyrically-heavy track, Tyler shows off his genre-bending production, tapping assistance from his idol Pharrell Williams, and Jack White. By the end, we’ve listened as IGOR fell into an obsessive love, battled with a female competitor, became frustrated over not receiving the affection he wanted, falling out of love, and ultimately moving on. If the answer to the song’s question is yes, you could argue, the album loops back to the beginning, and the cycle continues.

So for my final thoughts:

I know it’s only June, but I’m inclined to label IGOR the album of the year. I’m hoping Tyler continues to ride this wave of success and kick off an incredible tour to support the record. Marking Tyler’s first, IGOR has debuted on the Billboard charts at No. 1, beating out DJ Khaled, Billie Eilish and Khalid. Front to back, IGOR is beyond impressive, demonstrating all aspects of Tyler’s musical prowess. I love the character he’s created to represent this era, and can’t wait to see what he does next. With that being said, this was an easy rating:

★★★★★

-Caroline

Caroline FasslComment
2019 So Far...
 

These are the albums and tracks I’ve been listening to the most, and my early picks for the Best of 2019.

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Everything’s For Sale

Boogie

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While We Wait

Kehlani

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Rap or Go to the League

2 Chainz

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“Girls Need Love” (feat. Drake)

Summer Walker

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hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have- but I have it

Lana Del Rey

 
Caroline FasslComment
The Best Music of 2018

It’s been another whirlwind of a year in the music industry. From Cardi B announcing her pregnancy live on SNL, to Kanye losing his mind (again), to Pusha-T revealing Drake’s dad-hood, to Nicki Minaj picking fights with Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner, to Bey & Jay dropping a surprise joint album, to Ariana Grande absolutely f*cking killing it… I could go on.

There have been a lot of ups and downs in 2018, but let’s focus on the ups. Here are my favorite albums of the year, ranked by what I’ve enjoyed & listened to the most:

10. Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino

It wouldn’t be fair to end the year and write this list without mentioning Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. In an complete upheaval of their greased-back/leather jacket-wearing aura from the AM era, Arctic Monkeys returned with a surprise. This record is stripped down like we haven’t seen them before, slow and bluesy and reminiscent of old-timey cabaret bars. While it’s not hard-hitting, TBHC still has enough kitschy moments and sing-a-long choruses to keep crowds engaged at live shows. “Four Out of Five” is the clear staple, the best example of Alex Turner’s storytelling. Who wouldn’t want to eat tacos on the moon?

9. The Carters’ EVERYTHING IS LOVE

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I saw a comment on Twitter the other day about how EVERYTHING IS LOVE was the most forgotten-about project of 2018. If that’s the case, what sort of alternate universe are we living in? In a normal universe, the first joint album from the hottest music couple in the world should be shutting down the internet. Personally, I was excited enough about this to make a fake trial account for Tidal again (and that’s saying something), and I’d say it was worth it. The “APESHIT” video was easily the most well-directed reminder of how broke we all are compared to the Carters, and I live for it. “HEARD ABOUT US” was a consistent favorite on my playlist, and “FRIENDS” had all the tea. All I have to say is, thank god it ended up on Spotify. WHERE’S LEMONADE THOUGH?

8. Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy

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Whether you’re a fan of Cardi or not, you cannot deny 2018 was her year. While it might not have always been for good reasons, she dominated the entertainment news cycle and blazed a trail right to the ‘Queen of Rap’ throne. Her straight-talk and no-f**** attitude made Nicki seem like a beatable opponent, although I’d prefer to see them collaborate than compete. Not to toot my own horn, but I pegged Invasion of Privacy as a nominee for Album of the Year when it dropped, and my prediction was on point. To this day “Bodak Yellow” doesn’t get old at parties, the SZA-assisted “I Do” is a boss-bitch anthem, and “I Like It (feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin)” was a worldwide sensation. I’m looking forward to another year full of brutally honest Instagram videos from Cardi.

7. J. Cole’s KOD

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To my own surprise, 2018 was finally the year that I dove into J. Cole’s discography for real, and discovered that I love the heck out of this dude. Of course I was already familiar with his major hits, but then I found love in Cole World: The Sideline Story, which was a nice preface before he dropped KOD. For long-time J. Cole fans and music critics, this album seemed to be a winner. “Photograph” is deliciously addictive, “ATM” is fun and indulgent, and “Window Pain- Outro” was without a doubt one of the songs I bumped the most in my car. P.S., if I was ranking album cover art, this would be #1.

6. Travis Scott’s Astroworld

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Probably the most surprising of the bunch, Astroworld made such an impact I couldn’t ignore it. While Travis Scott isn’t someone I’d listened to very much in the past, I think he showed us all that he wasn’t here to play this time around. With the release of his album aligning perfectly with his set at Lollapalooza, I simply couldn’t escape the hype. You would have thought he opened up an actual theme park, just by looking around at the “Wish You Were Here” merch that was sprinkled over Lolla-goers all over the park. And then of course, he seemed to have the most talked about and exciting tour of the year, complete with a damn ride-on roller coaster. I frequented “Sicko Mode” (along with everyone else) and “Coffee Bean,” which has got to be my favorite song of his. Overall, it was a very big year for Travis, and I assume the hype will continue far into next year with the second leg of the Astroworld Tour.

5. Ariana Grande’s Sweetener

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Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit— this year, Ariana Grande went from somebody I vaguely pay attention to, to somebody who I sincerely adore and cherish. Never in my life have I seen a woman reign the charts and demand our attention so eloquently, let alone having to deal with tragedies in her personal life all the while. If you weren’t keeping up with Twitter trends recently, you’d probably never notice the latter. That’s why she’s my favorite person of 2018. Sweetener is an absolute gem— something that I never really imagined myself saying about a pop album nowadays. “God is a Woman” changed the game and made me realize I can listen to pop music without feeling like a sellout. I mean, did you see the music video? Iconic. Did you see the MTV VMAs performance? Iconic. And just when you’ve finally caught your breath, our one true Goddess gives us “thank u, next” with an ultimate wig-snatching music video. I MEAN… it’s over. It’s all over. Say goodnight and go.

4. The Weeknd’s My Dear Melancholy,

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Early this year we were blessed with the return of Sad Boi Abel. Whether you want to consider My Dear Melancholy, as an album or an EP, this project was undoubtedly one of the most captivating releases of 2018. Without sounding too much like a celebrity gossip blog, we’re all assuming this was inspired by the Weeknd’s short-lived relationship with Selena Gomez, and his eventual rekindling with Bella Hadid. Whatever it was that conjured up these songs, thank god I’m here for it. As much as I adore Beauty Behind the Madness, this was the closest thing we’ve gotten to Trilogy-level moodiness and perfection. “Call Out My Name” has endless replay value, and “Wasted Times” is great to listen to while you’re absolutely catching feelings but in denial about it! My Dear Melancholy, is a clear departure from the pop-dusted work we received on Starboy, and in my opinion, this is the area where The Weeknd shines the brightest. If he could get his heart broken every other year or so, that’d be ideal. I’m kidding of course but… then again I’m not.

3. Kali Uchis’ Isolation

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Kali Uchis received the attention she deserved this year. Her debut album Isolation is deliciously enjoyable from front to back, and our Colombian queen shows off why she’s an emerging icon. Genre wise, Isolation is a killer blend of R&B, reggaeton, funk and soul that’ll transport you to a tropical island real quick. After seeing Kali twice this year, I’ve become a loyal fan of both her and her incredible wardrobe. Not to mention, she commands the stage like an artist who’s been around for a lifetime. If you haven’t hopped on the Kali Uchis bandwagon just yet, you better hurry up. With no doubt that Isolation is just the tip of the iceberg of her talent, I’m predicting a huge 2019.

2. Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E.

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Teyana Taylor was by far my favorite breakthrough artist of 2018. KTSE is the first album of hers that I’ve really sat down and listened to, and let me tell you, I did a lot of listening. This summer was practically defined by singing along to “Gonna Love Me” and “Issues/Hold On” in the car. The beautiful thing about this masterpiece is the length- a perfectly succinct 8 tracks that you can digest, and yet not get tired of. With all of the chaos surrounding Kanye’s “summer of G.O.O.D. Music releases,” KTSE is the shiniest gem to come out of it. It’s sexy, sultry and sweet all rolled up into one package. Consider me a loyal fan from now on.

1. 6LACK’s East Atlanta Love Letter

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From the opening track “Unfair,” all the way to the closer “Stan,” 6LACK reels you in on a R&B/hip-hop journey. After his debut album FREE 6LACK was regarded as one of the best albums of 2016, AND Grammy-nominated, he had a lot to live up to. Thankfully for us listeners and fans, East Atlanta Love Letter was no sophomore slump, rather an expertly-crafted record. I found myself listening to this album at all times of the day, in any mood, and if it came out in the beginning of the year it would have been my most-listened to record. Good news is, 6LACK is equally talented at a live show. His tour stop in Orlando went off, with the crowd screaming and cheering every word to every song. If that was the energy in Florida, I couldn’t imagine what his hometown Atlanta shows were like. I’m looking forward to the follow-up to EALL, even if it’s just a few singles for the time being.

NOTABLE MENTIONS

Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys

Drake’s Scorpion

Kanye West’s ye

KIDS SEE GHOSTS’ KIDS SEE GHOSTS

The Neighbourhood’s Hard to Imagine the Neighbourhood Ever Changing

Blood Orange’s Negro Swan

Nicki Minaj’s Queen

Robyn’s Honey

Jorja Smith’s Lost & Found

Caroline FasslComment