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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ASU chapter.

The overarching theme of IGOR is an experience that many can relate to. You fall for someone and they reciprocate but refuse to go all in. So you then exist in limbo, waiting on them to send you to hell or bring you to heaven. Consumed by the lack of closure, you hurt, you wallow, you rage. But eventually, you have to move on. So you do. Conflict is undoubtedly the backbone of IGOR, and it captures infatuation, love, heartache and acceptance. It has the feeling of an imaginary score and is the most cinematic album Tyler, The Creator has to date. It’s a rich and messy collaboration of R&B, funk, and rap that carries a luminous sheen and bittersweet undercurrent—just like a relationship. 

Although most of us are familiar with themes in narrative arts like movies, TV shows, albums, and books, it has a more nuanced meaning when applied to music theory. A famous pianist, Jeremy Denk, once said, “It’s an idea [theme] with several riffs on the idea [variation]—in all kinds of styles and moods…You take the theme, you take the original idea and you begin to alter it or add things to it.”

The opening song on the album, Igor’s Theme, can attest to that as it helps to establish and develop more lyrical concepts later on. This helps explain why the lyrics here sound fragmented and repetitive. Rather than the song describing a specific emotion or event, it’s like a painter showing you the palette with all the colors that will be a part of the painting. 

The second song, Earfquake, sets the emotion for this album. We understand how necessary this love interest is to Igor. But, from the lyrics, we can tell this relationship is complicated. There is no honeymoon phase here. There is as much heartbreak as there is affection. The narrator is fearful that the love interest will leave him and how the lack of closure will bother him exponentially throughout the song.

The next song, I Think, is just another subplot in the album. While Earfquake showed the existence of complications, I Think shows just how intense they are and how they affect you. Some lyrics, although they can be seen as innocently romantic, also plant the seeds for an unhealthy dependence on the love interest. Unfortunately, at this point, Igor still hasn’t opened his eyes and come to his senses. The 4th song, although not a song, is called an in-road which includes specific moments of telling that help audiences to understand what’s happened and why.

Exactly What You Run From You End Up Chasing, is a brief snippet from an interview that describes the first half of IGOR. He is giving the guy he loves everything he can give, despite the fear, stress and hurt. Unfortunately for him, there are several obstacles. 

The 5th track, Running Out of Time, makes it clear that time is one of the obstacles Igor is facing. We are at the point of the album where Igor realizes that the depth of feeling is unrequited. On top of time, he details two other obstacles: a “her” that is in the picture and the love interest wearing a costume/mask, lying about who he is. Based on the context of the album, the most likely interpretation is that the male love interest has hidden the true nature of his sexuality. Because he is living in pretend, he won’t commit to Igor, won’t tell his friends, and keeps seeing the girl.

The next song, New Magic Wand, focuses on Igor’s jealousy and plans to get her out of the picture. He is sick of being in a love triangle and tells the guy to choose either him or the girl. But if the guy remains indecisive, Igor will pick them both (meaning murder). This song is darker than anything else we have heard so far. Tyler has become desperate and obsessive.

This transitions into the next song, A Boy Is A Gun, which explores the dangerous undertones of the relationship that Igor could not see before. He recollects the arguments he has with the love interest and how the girl is still present. Igor has reached the point where he rejects the guy because he can be the gun too. That is the end of Part 1, where we see him begin to regain perspective and become fully aware of their relationship dynamic.

The next song, Puppet, starts with him as the puppet, willing to do anything. The song shifts in the middle, and the rest of the track is Igor trying to reassert control of himself. This song shows him coming into a breakthrough. He realizes that he can’t depend on his love interest anymore and that if he won’t put in the effort, why should he?

The ninth track, What’s Good, shows who our narrator truly is; someone who uses extreme bravado and ego as a means of hiding the pain, longing, and vulnerability that he truly feels. Too much ego for too long is a problem, but a little bit here and there can be just what Igor needs to get through his heartache. This song represents the overfilled ego, the outpour and full-blown persona that cleanses himself, and the heartbreak and confusion that consumed him up until this point. He re-establishes the free will he had lost before.

The next track, Gone, Gone/Thank You, is Igor reflecting on what happened between him, the guy, and the girl. Whereas the first part of the album was filled to the brim with disastrous romance, this portion is passed and he frames their relationship in the past tense. Verse 2 reveals the girl won: I just hope to God she got the taste/to put you on some sh*t you never seen. Through the metaphors of weather, tenancy, and construction, this song as a whole serves as a summary of the love triangle, which shows that Igor is emotionally ready to move on with his life, but not yet ready to be in another relationship (Thank you for the love, thank you for the joy, but I am never gonna fall in love again.)

Following that, I Don’t Love You Anymore, is about his willingness to move on and take the next steps. With the romance over with, is there still a relationship to be salvaged here? Something more platonic? Igor is an assistant to a scientist. Second fiddle to a more dominant personality. To fufill the role of a loyal friend a comical sidekick, who is better than Igor? These burning questions gives rise to the final track of this album.

In the 12th and final song, Are We Still Friends?, Tyler uses the sample Dream by Al Green. Sometimes musicians will use a sample for its sonic qualities or even radio appeal, but here Tyler uses it as an illusion. The purpose of an illusion in music, cinema, literature, poetry, and fine art is to add or contrast the context and meaning of the outside work to an artist’s own. In this song, Igor hopes that this dream of being friends with his ex can not only come true but also last. To that end, the second verse details how he can make the friendship work: Don’t get green skin, keep contact/Don’t say, “Goodbye, smell you later.” In other words: be kind, and don’t be petty. Igor can feel the potential he and this guy have and because of that, he would rather end up as friends than as nothing at all. The wasted potential would be far more upsetting than any other outcome. This track, as with many others, ends sharply with a synth never resolving its buzz. There’s nothing left to say when you’ve given yourself away.

This album is Tyler’s shortest one to date. It represents all the good and bad that comes with a relationship and makes you realize that a relationship can end just as quickly as it had once begun. Overall, IGOR is a heartfelt album that finds the narrator lowering his guard and opening himself up, just like many of us have done (whether we know it or not). This album shows you that heartbreak and true love is discombobulated, chaotic, lonely and much more. It captures the human essence and mind when it comes to how we deal with heartbreak and what we can do to move forward. A line that is repeated most often throughout this album is (Sometimes you gotta close a door to open a window.) Tyler does precisely this on IGOR.

By closing the door on the philosophies and musical approaches he used to take, he discovers an open window, leading him to new, peaceful strength and mastery of his craft. Tyler knows and is grateful for this whole experience and wouldn’t have done it differently if it meant that things would be better from here on and out. That is something we should all take away from this masterpiece of an album.

Isys Morrow is a freshman studying English and is a writer at the Her Campus at ASU chapter. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, rating movies on Letterboxd, and trying new coffee shops. She especially enjoys walking her dog Ace in the summertime.