Tyler, the Creator - 'IGOR' Album Review
Never has an artist made more of a 180 in their career than California's Tyler, the Creator who made one of the most successful re-brands in Hip-Hop with his fantastic 2017 album Flower Boy that transformed Tyler from angsty, troublesome teen into a more mature and flawed musician. With Flower Boy placing all eyes on Tyler, he quickly moved to the top of my list and with the release of IGOR it's clear he has no intention of moving down. Flower Boy saw Tyler moving from dirty beats into classical chords and IGOR seems to be the natural progression of this as he combines beautiful chords and melodies with the occasional grimy twang in what is essentially 40 minutes of Tyler seeing how much he can push his synths, to surprisingly cohesive results.
It's difficult to throw the U word around considering how much music there is in the world and how little of it I've heard but it's clear after the first few tracks that IGOR is something unique. Relying on addicting chord progressions and distorted vocals, IGOR is basically what Tyler's 4th album, Cherry Bomb, should've been. With a heavy influence on production over rapping it's clear he is trying to distance himself from his 'rapper' image, moving into melodic singing and overwhelming chords, IGOR plays out like an experimental pop album, as Tyler spends most of his time singing his heart out, to mostly great results as track like 'Gone Gone/ Thank You' and 'Are We Still Friends' leave chills on my arm from Tyler's passionate delivery.
Much like Flower Boy, IGOR tells a story of love and loss but in a much more direct way as the tracklist carefully follows Tyler and another alter ego of his, 'Igor', through a rocky relationship ending in a breakup. On IGOR, Tyler adds very little innovation to the well documented history of writing a breakup song, but this album isn't really about the lyrics, as Tyler puts his stellar production at the forefront making every track feel like an emotional blow to the chest despite it's on-the-nose lyrics. Cliche lines like "Don't leave, it's my fault" from 'Earfquake' just pack so much punch when paired with Tyler's glistening instrumentals, making for one of many heavy moments scattered across IGOR, another one coming from the beautiful closing track 'Are We Still Friends', an absolute behemoth of a track that feels like the perfect closing ceremony to a relationship.
As this is a Tyler, the Creator project, along side these prettier, bittersweet tracks, there are still a couple of grimy and sinister moments. The phenomenal opener, 'Igor's Theme', blew me away on first listen so much that I didn't even recognise Lil Uzi Vert's vocals all over the disgustingly heavy bass, as he repeats the mantra "Ridin' 'round town they gone feel this one" and "He's comin'". 'New Magic Wand' has a similarly insidious feel to it as well as 'What's Good' whose first half sounds like you're playing Mortal Kombat while your friend is in the room next door rapping along to the soundtrack before the beat switches into a messy, pounding synth letting Tyler spit some of his first bars of the album.
This combination of beautiful chords with deep, bassy synths is not new to Tyler's music, but I've never quite seen it take centre stage the way it does on IGOR as it is easily his best produced album to date. This is not to say that Tyler does not have a voice on IGOR as his storytelling is clear, if a bit cliche, across this project and there are some fantastic vocal performances scattered about from Solange to Kanye West, making this much more than just an instrumental album, even if it might seem like it at times. After the commercial and critical success of Flower Boy, nobody would've blamed Tyler for reaching that approachable, likeable sound again but instead he pushed his own sound even further, flexing his production muscles for about 40 solid minutes spread across 12 tracks that can get a little self-indulgent at times but ultimately stays exciting throughout.
Listen to IGOR in all it's glory below: