On May 17th, Tyler, The Creator released his genre-bending sixth album, IGOR. On Twitter, Tyler wrote specific instructions before listening to the album: “Don’t go into this expecting a rap album. Don’t go into this expecting any album. Just go. Jump into it. I believe the first listen works the best all the way through."
With this statement from Tyler, it’s best to do just that. This is an album that sounds best when listened to in order and in its entirety. It’s not quite a concept album, yet its unique sounds require listeners to immerse themselves into the world of IGOR. The beats, synths, and voice-overs create a secret universe. From an artist who mastered versatility, IGOR becomes yet another re-invention. It doesn’t sound like Tyler’s early grittier works like Goblin nor is it exactly like his most recent sunny, nostalgia-filled album Flower Boy. IGOR is its own beast with its own sonic highs, lows, and story.
Starting with “IGOR’S THEME,” Tyler introduces prominent synths, which are featured on the rest of the album. Lil Uzi Vert, one of the unlisted featured artists on the album, comes in with the vocals “riding around town they gone feel this one” creating a sense of suspense for the rest of the album. The next track, “EARFQUAKE” is a love song featuring Tyler's pitched-up vocals alongside those of Charlie Wilson and Playboi Carti. It's the first we hear about Tyler pleading to save a fading relationship in a way that sounds completely heartfelt and sincere.
IGOR's next track,“RUNNING OUT OF TIME,” features some of the best lyrics from the album. Tyler uses a drowning motif to describe the overwhelming and consuming nature of falling in love. For Tyler, he's not fighting against this feeling, but accepting and embracing it. Like Leon Bridges and Frank Ocean who often explore the metaphorical meaning of water in their music, Tyler expertly weaves this imagery into a deeply personal narrative.
Meanwhile, on “NEW MAGIC WAND,” Tyler abruptly shifts to describing the sense of barely clinging on to this once all-consuming love. A progressing sense of dread develops amid spooky synths and pessimistic lyrics. On “A BOY IS A GUN,” and “PUPPET,” Tyler’s complicated relationship with love continues. Throughout “A BOY IS A GUN,” Tyler soulfully repeats the line, “Don’t shoot me down.” Its singular ambiguity leaves the listener to wonder whether he’s seeking love and fearful of rejection or avoiding a love so detrimental it could ruin him. Perhaps it’s both or meant to be interpreted how the listener wants to. That said, “PUPPET” features a similarly ambiguous sentiment as Tyler raps about being controlled by a love that strips him of self-control.
Varying both the tempo and the tone of these tracks, Tyler is able to express the volatility of his emotions. “WHAT’S GOOD,” blazes in with fast tempo, sounding both restless and agitated. Following this, Tyler proclaims that he’s “'bout to go buckwild.” Yet, just as the album nearly forays into anger and empowerment, the tone shifts dramatically on “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU.” The song distorts Tyler's vocals, rendering them octaves higher than imaginable. Tyler returns to the style he established in Flower Boy, Tyler, using months to symbolize emotional periods of his life as he did in “November.” He sings that a love “felt like summer to my December” and then questions, “Was it my August?”. Tyler portrays the temporal nature of his love so vividly.
On IGOR's final two tracks, “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS," Tyler searches for a final word on romance. The tempo of both tracks slows down, just as Tyler seeks peace in his lyrics. Although Tyler leans towards acceptance, feelings of confusion and uncertainty still remain. The last few seconds of the album are full of soulful vocals paired with pure, unbridled screams.
Ultimately, IGOR is not about falling in and out of love. Tyler portrays romance as a violent, volatile force that pushes and pulls relentlessly. No matter what love is to Tyler, it’s powerful. It consumes, chases, repulses, and drowns. With feelings in flux, Tyler pairs equally turbulent beats and rhythms switching from soft, sincere vocals to frustrated raps. With this in mind, IGOR is one of Tyler's most complicated, yet best albums to date.