Months After Its Release Tyler, the Creator Changes IGOR

Another IGOR review??? Yes.

My initial plan was to follow the original 3500-word review with a later update on the vinyl edition’s sound quality, but plans change. I got a bit of exclusive information from Jack White about “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”, which I reported on, but even more happened with this LP. As advance copies of IGOR’s CD edition circulated, word spread that Tyler quietly dropped a physical-only (vinyl, CD, and cassette) “bonus track” entitled “BOYFRIEND.”

Calling it a bonus track, however, isn’t the most accurate description. In the physical track list, “BOYFRIEND” takes the place of the 14-second spoken interlude “EXACTLY WHAT YOU RUN FROM YOU END UP CHASING.” That piece, narrated by comedian Jerrod Carmichael, is tacked onto the end of “BOYFRIEND,” which fits right in with the album’s narrative (more on that in a minute).

As the news began to spread about “BOYFRIEND”, I became excited yet a slight bit unhappy at the same time. Excited because it’s a new Tyler track on one of the greatest albums of all time, but unhappy because he changed the album after I’d already done an extensive, albeit incomplete (I could’ve written 1000 more words had I found the patience and time to do so) IGOR narrative dissection. You know that “ah shit, here we go again” meme? That’s exactly how I felt about Tyler TLOP-ing a flawless album, meaning I have to (sort of) review it again. (TLOP-ing, for those who don’t know, is the act of making significant changes, such as changing lyrics, noticeably remixing, and/or adding and subtracting songs on an album already released to the public. Kanye West pioneered this move with his 2016 masterpiece The Life Of Pablo, affectionately abbreviated as TLOP. Other artists who’ve TLOP-ed their albums include Travis Scott, Young Thug, Trippie Redd, and hilariously enough, Taylor Swift. In other words, it’s the same thing as George Lucas changing old Star Wars movies whenever a new video format hits the market.) In the end, however, I happily ordered the $13 German-manufactured CD (packaged in a nice “digipak” gatefold sleeve with extra artwork and a lyrics booklet), despite having already spent crazy money on this album and its associated merch this year (don’t worry, it’s worth it).

“BOYFRIEND” features guest vocals from Charlie Wilson (who also provides backing vocals on “EARFQUAKE” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE”) and dense, distorted production akin to Cherry Bomb-era Tyler with parts a bit reminiscent of Kanye’s epic Yeezus closer, “Bound 2” (which coincidentally also features Wilson; I detailed the similarities between Yeezus and IGOR in my initial review of the latter). Wilson’s part, written by Tyler, includes the lines “Like compliments to smiles or the light to sun, this feels natural” and “I can’t buy you the world, but my time is yours.” These lyrics provide even further detail into the IGOR character’s longing for a romantic relationship with the male subject and, due to the unfiltered nature of Wilson’s voice (unless there’s some Autotune, but my sensitive ears can’t hear any), in a purer than usual way.

Tyler himself continues these themes in his pitched-up verse, most notably with “I’m tryna be more than a friend/My heart’s on the run/I wanna be your boyfriend, cause you are the one.” The biggest revelation in this song is the lyric, “I’m tryna be your boyfriend, but it’s damaging cause we the same.” It now helps further answer the question of why IGOR and this male lover couldn’t sustain a relationship, but it also opens up more questions, most notably: how much of a role did the overly similar personalities play, versus the other man’s ex-girlfriend who eventually won him back? And we still don’t know if, in the end, IGOR and the other man were able to maintain an ordinary friendship (though based on the closing of “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”, I assume not).

“BOYFRIEND” essentially serves (sort of) as a clarification tool in IGOR’s narrative, yet now that it’s there, the story loses some of its mystique. I kinda feel that if it had to be there, it should’ve been placed later in the album (but the track listing is perfect and I couldn’t bring myself to change the run of songs from “NEW MAGIC WAND” to the end) or included it as a hidden track that you have to wait 10 minutes to hear. I don’t mind too much its placement between “I THINK” and “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”, but it’s the equivalent of reading a third of a book then skipping 200 pages ahead—it’s giving away what’s to come in the story. Even though I enjoy the “BOYFRIEND” version of IGOR, something about the “EXACTLY WHAT YOU RUN FROM YOU END UP CHASING” configuration just draws me in more, not to mention it flows better (but maybe that’s because I’ve heard the “EXACTLY WHAT YOU RUN FROM” version over 50 times and the “BOYFRIEND” version, like, 5 times).

In a way, what “BOYFRIEND” is to IGOR is similar to what “Saint Pablo” is to The Life Of Pablo, in that they’re both songs that fit into the narratives of their respective albums yet were added months after the albums’ initial releases (“Saint Pablo” was added to TLOP 4 months after its first edit dropped). However, there’s a major difference between the two. “Saint Pablo” brings the stunning TLOP narrative full circle, as well as creating a loop out of Kanye’s career up until that point. (“We Don’t Care,” the first song from Ye’s 2004 debut LP The College Dropout, features the line “we weren’t supposed to make it past 25, joke’s on you, we still alive” while “Saint Pablo,” The Life Of Pablo’s closer, has the line “I wasn’t supposed to make it past 25.”) That loop is what makes The Life Of Pablo such a great album (I hold it in equally high regard as I do IGOR; both are in my top 4 albums of all time) with such an emotionally moving narrative. The addition of “BOYFRIEND” to IGOR doesn’t create an earth-shattering change in the album (albeit still a significant one) and doesn’t drastically improve or ruin it either. In some ways, it’s just there.

As of the time of writing, Tyler hasn’t publicly commented on “BOYFRIEND,” which definitely says something. Maybe he’s stayed silent to let the music speak for itself. Or it could be that he doesn’t want to make a big fuss out of basically confirming with this song his bisexuality (it’s definitely not because he didn’t want it on the album, as he likely has complete or near-complete creative control over his work). And because of that (along with the lack of an official digital release thus far) most music media outlets have yet to report it. The news has mostly stayed within Tyler fan circles (most prominently r/TylertheCreator), and maybe that’s how it should be. You know, a deep cut for the fans to enjoy.

I still agree with nearly everything in my original review, except there I downplayed the sound quality. Despite still not having heard the 24bit files, I think the CD sounds fantastic. Especially “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU,” where the reverberant space is big, the soundstage wide, the acoustic guitar appropriately delicate, the bass line clear and dynamic, and the emotion of Tyler’s vocal performance aimed directly at the listener. Some people say IGOR is poorly mixed; it has an intentionally lo-fi aesthetic but is still in my opinion an audiophile quality recording, if your definition of “audiophile quality” allows for more than Kind Of Blue and $125 SRV albums. It’s everything I could want from an obsolete Compact Disc. Plus it has a lyrics booklet, which is uncommon on albums from hip-hop artists (if Tyler is even that anymore). I can’t wait to hear what the vinyl will sound like (when it arrives in October, I’ll provide a sound quality update). Until then, I need to get busy on a few more reviews.

COMMENTS
doak's picture

some of what whatever it is you’re pushing, Malachi.
Ohh,, ,,Youth
Damn

MalachiLui's picture

MY REPLY TO YOUR COMMENT (AMONG OTHERS' COMMENTS) IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS COMMENTS SECTION.

Bluejimbop's picture

When The Beatles first hit, their fans screamed, pulled their own hair and wet themselves.

MalachiLui's picture

SEE MY COMMENT AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS COMMENTS SECTION.

Ivan Lietaert's picture

All this about 14 secs added to some obscure album? While the rainforest in Brazil is burning? Time to put things in perspective, M, and grow up a little bit!
Still a fan!

MalachiLui's picture

And also it was 3 minutes 46 seconds added to the album.

mikenc's picture

Now that Jack Oblivion album does it, it is a rocker...turn it up. Isn't it great there's so many different types of music. Something for everybody.

MalachiLui's picture

for me it was very accessible upon the first listen. but as I delved deeper I found all of its intricacies to be fascinating. for some people, it might take time to grow on them, but I think the small details are what really makes "IGOR" great (I also think you should listen to "Flower Boy," "Yeezus," and "The Life Of Pablo" as well; the former for a bit more context about this part of Tyler's career, and the latter two to understand how the same narrative tools have previously been used in music). I'm sure "IGOR" will eventually click for you. If there are a few highlight songs to focus on, they'd be "GONE, GONE / THANK YOU," "A BOY IS A GUN," and "ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?".

still haven't listened to the Jack Oblivion album myself - it's on my "to do" list. right now I have to focus on reviewing BROCKHAMPTON, Lana Del Rey, Tool, Olivia Jean, and a few other things (meaning, like, 10 albums). so yeah, stay tuned for reviews of at least some of those.

Lazer's picture

We all want young people to get into this hobby...and when they do, you criticize the music they like and bring up the rain forest because it’s more important. Hypocrite.

xtcfan80's picture

Wasn’t IGOR the assistant in Young Frankenstein ???? That’s Frankenstein-stein!!!!

Bob Henneberger's picture

not a fan of this album but i can see your passionate about music and that is a good thing,,,,, keep up the good work Mal

MalachiLui's picture

SOME PEOPLE IN HERE ARE QUESTIONING WHY I HAD TO WRITE A THIRD PIECE ABOUT "IGOR," THINKING THAT I'M JUST PUSHING IT ON READERS AS HARD AS I CAN AND THAT I JUST CAN'T SEEM TO SHUT UP ABOUT HOW GREAT THIS ALBUM IS..

BEFORE WE GET FURTHER INTO THIS, I'D LIKE YOU GUYS TO KNOW THAT ME WRITING IN ALL CAPS DOESN'T MEAN I'M PISSED OFF. I'M NOT YELLING AT YOU, OK?

SO YES, I DO REALLY LOVE THIS ALBUM. IN FACT, I THINK IT'S AMONG THE GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME. FOR CONTEXT, HERE ARE MY TOP 4 ALBUMS OF ALL TIME (FROM 4 TO 1; TOP 2-3 CAN BE INTERCHANGEABLE AT TIMES):

4. IGOR
3. THE LIFE OF PABLO
2. BLONDE
1. BLACKSTAR (STATION TO STATION AND LOW ARE REALLY CLOSE THO)

SINCE "IGOR" IS A NARRATIVE PIECE, A CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE OF IT MEANS A LOT. IMAGINE IF THIS WAS A MOVIE AND THERE WAS A VITAL SCENE SUDDENLY ADDED IN THE MIDDLE AFTER YOU ALREADY SAW IT IN THEATRES SEVERAL TIMES. THIS IS THE SAME THING.

AND AS FAR AS MUSIC COMPARISONS GO: IF YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST (OR ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS) CHANGED THEIR ALBUM AFTER 3 MONTHS, WOULDN'T YOU BE GOING CRAZY OVER IT? AGAIN, SAME THING.

JUST THINK ABOUT IT IN THOSE CONTEXTS AND EVERYTHING WILL MAKE SENSE.

AND NO, I'M NOT DONE WRITING ABOUT "IGOR" YET. BUT MY NEXT TASK IS REVIEWING NEW ALBUMS FROM BROCKHAMPTON, LANA DEL REY, TOOL, OLIVIA JEAN, AND OTHERS, SO YOU'LL GET A BREAK FROM ALL THIS "IGOR" DISCUSSION FOR A SOLID MONTH.

SINCERELY,
ML

P.S. OUT OF ALL THE "IGOR" TRACKS, MY FAVORITE MIGHT (KEY WORD, "MIGHT") BE "GONE, GONE / THANK YOU." I RECOMMEND YOU LISTEN TO IT BY ITSELF AND THEN PLAY IT IN THE FULL ALBUM CONTEXT.

bkinthebk's picture

When I first saw blackstar I thought you meant the Talib keeling/Mos def album Black Star. Have you spent some time with 90s hip hop? Tribe, Pharcyde, Jungle Brothers, Digable planets, etc etc? I got into jazz through albums like Low End Theory and lots of others.

analogdw's picture

Malachi

Unrelated to IGOR, but I'm very glad to hear that you'll be reviewing the new Tool album. Of course, it's also not available on vinyl yet (and hasn't received a vinyl release announcement at all as of this moment). I've only listened to it twice through so far and already feel it's one of my top 10 albums of all time (their earlier album Lateralus is #1 for me). All I ask is that you listen to the album completely through multiple times (ideally at least five to ten times if you can) before writing your review. Looking forward to it!

Thanks.

MalachiLui's picture

My review of it will be pretty short (probably 2 paragraphs as it’ll be part of a feature with other album reviews) but I’ll try to listen to it (and also familiarize myself with Tool’s discography) as much as I can before reviewing. But so far I’m enjoying it! (Listened 1.5 times.)

MalachiLui's picture

I've finished a mini-review of it to include in the next super duper ultra magnificent review explosion, whenever that is. thought the album was ok, not as impressive as Tool's earlier work, kinda boring at times, but overall decent (tho looooooooooooooong af). so it's getting a decent review but not a glowing one.

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