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The Scarlet Ink

Album Review: Igor

A critique and analysis of Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Igor’.
Album Review: Igor

Tyler, The Creator is one of my favorite artists at the moment, and Igor is by far his most popular project. It ties Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale for my favorite album; I really can’t pick. At its core, Igor is an album about a love triangle between three people: Igor, the main character, a man he falls in love with, and a woman that Igor’s love interest has been in a relationship with in the past. When you think about it, the album’s story has a very simple structure: two people fall deeply in love, but it doesn’t work out, and the aftermath is disastrous for both parties. It’s a messy and emotional story portrayed in a very creative way, and the progression of the album reflects the progression of the relationship. It begins with cheery and lighthearted songs like ‘EARFQUAKE’ and ‘I THINK’ before transitioning to the darker ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’ and ‘WHAT’S GOOD’ before finally ending in the more melancholic ‘I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE’ and ‘ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?’.

While Tyler has never confirmed this, it seems clear to me that the story of Igor is based on something that happened to him. It’s such a deeply personal and honest album that it almost has to be. He’s known to be a very strange and hilarious person, and going off of the music videos (especially ‘EARFQUAKE’s), the Igor character feels like a pretty good representation of his personality. This doesn’t really feel like an album made for fans- it seems like something Tyler made for himself, but ended up being relatable and catchy enough to blow up in the way it did. With Igor, Tyler hasn’t only crafted incredible music, but a complex and realistic love story that has received universal critical and commercial acclaim.

I would highly recommend just listening to the album first, and I’d also suggest doing so in one sitting. It’s pretty short, only being around forty minutes, and that’s how Tyler intended it to be experienced. One of his classic tweets says it better than I ever could: “This is not Bastard. This is not Goblin. This is not Wolf. This is not Cherry Bomb. This is not Flower Boy. This is IGOR. Pronounced EEE-GORE. 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 best all the way through, no skips. Front to back. No distractions either. No checking your phone, no watching TV, no holding convo; full attention towards the sounds where you can form your own opinions and feelings toward the album. Some go on walks, some drive, some lay in bed and sponge it all up. Whatever it is you choose, fully indulge. With volume. As much as I would like to paint a picture and tell you my favorite moments, I would rather you form your own. If we ever cross paths, feel free to articulate what those moments were for you, keep it timely tho I’m not tryna have an Oprah episode. Stank you smelly mucho”.

Even if you’ve never listened to a single one of Tyler’s songs or aren’t a rap fan, I’d still recommend checking out Igor. It’s definitely not a rap album, and really can’t be classified into one genre. It’s probably most similar to pop overall, but it changes genres consistently enough to still not be considered a pop album. I believe that almost anybody could get behind Igor; even if you don’t want to delve into the deeper themes and meanings behind the songs, many of them are catchy enough to just be fun to listen to. There’s a reason why this album blew up in 2019 and is still extremely popular to this day.


Track 01: IGOR’S THEME

Essentially a track meant to let the listener know what they’re getting into, ‘IGOR’S THEME’ sets the tone for the rest of the album. It begins with a twenty-four second long sound of distorted bass, and then transitions into a catchy beat that lets you know ‘they gon’ feel this one’, which is very true. This works well as a theme song for Igor, both the album and the character; the bass and beat are reminiscent of sounds heard throughout, the bass specifically being heard in some form across every song on the tracklist. This is a good intro song to get you into the right mood for the rest of the tracklist, and is just a great representation for the feel of the album as a whole.



Despite its uplifting melody, ‘EARFQUAKE’ does have something of a darker meaning to it. The song doesn’t really fit into the story of Igor, but it’s still very fitting, with themes that match the rest of the tracklist. Looking closely at the lyrics, it seems that Tyler is accepting the fact that he is the problem in a relationship of some sort, explaining “Don’t leave, it’s my fault”. The later verse shows remorse for him having wasted the other person’s time, but still asking them to remain in the relationship. The outro shows Tyler’s desire to actually end things and get on with his life, despite his previous pleas. My personal theory about ‘EARFQUAKE’ is that it transpires before the events of the rest of the album, and the failed relationship that he caused results in him falling in love shortly after. Of course, this is never confirmed, but it makes sense, especially since the rest of the album follows a pretty linear timeline.

It’s very understandable why this is quite possibly the most well known song on Igor. The tune is catchy, innocent, and happy, beautifully meshing a subdued yet vibrant sound with some fantastic piano notes. This is definitely my favorite of the album’s music videos, as well- Tyler does some very fun dance moves, and it was strangely comedic. I didn’t think I’d be laughing so hard at a music video from an album about a messy breakup.


Track 03: I THINK

‘I THINK’ is not only the first official part of Igor’s story, but it foreshadows the events of several other songs throughout the album. The music video shows Igor seeing a man at a party, and instantly becoming infatuated. He’s in love, repeating ”This time I think it’s for real” many times throughout the track. As the song progresses, Igor becomes more interested, trying harder and harder to get his attention, mentioning how ”I never leave you alone, always in your hair”, ”You are such a distraction”, and ”Man, I wish you would call me”. This is really the only positive moment throughout the entire album- Igor has found love, and he’s happy.

‘I THINK’ foreshadows several other songs and events throughout the rest of the album, as well. One lyric, ‘I am your puppet, you are Jim Henson’, is a clear nod to the later song ‘PUPPET’, especially knowing the context of that particular track.  A deeper pull that I noticed upon relisten was the lyric ‘Take ’em to the bridge’, which seems to be a reference to a verse from ‘GONE, GONE / THANK YOU’, which takes place much farther on this timeline. There’s also a line where Tyler says ‘curiosity killed the feline’, clearly telling you that this newfound obsession won’t end well. This isn’t Igor‘s most memorable track, but it’s very important. ‘I THINK’ contains the inciting incident for the rest of the story, and foreshadows almost the entirety of the relationship between Igor and his partner.



‘RUNNING OUT OF TIME’ is when you can see cracks beginning to form. It’s fair to assume that this is set a long time after ‘I THINK’, as the rest of the album seems as if this is the end of a long-term affair. Although Igor doesn’t want to accept it, the relationship has clearly run its course, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. For the first of many times on this album, needing ‘her’ out of the picture is mentioned in this song, establishing the love triangle that the story is based around. Igor’s boyfriend is clearly still interested in his past partner, and Igor cannot stand it. He knows there’s nothing he can do about this, as the chorus explains that he’s ”Running out of time to make you love me”, and ”Been running out of spells to make you love me”, but he’s still trying to prevent it.

The whole song has a very somber feel to it, making it really seem like the end of something big. Although we never really got a song detailing what the actual relationship was like, it’s clear that it was strong, at least for awhile. We’re given something of an explanation as to how the relationship came to an end much later in the album, but it’s never 100% clear. Igor makes it seem like it wasn’t his fault in this track, telling his partner ”Take the mask off”, and ”Halloween ain’t for a minute, lose the costume”, as if his partner has changed and he’s asking him to return to his original personality, and then makes it seem like their problems were based solely on communication in ‘GONE, GONE / THANK YOU’. To me, this means that Igor is an unreliable narrator. We know that he has a history with toxic relationships because ‘EARFQUAKE’, giving us yet another possible explanation as to how they grew apart. I personally believe that it’s ultimately Igor’s fault, as he goes to extreme lengths to try to save it. It certainly seems that he wasn’t the one that ended things if he still cares this much.



Here we are: my absolute favorite track on Igor. This is Igor’s absolute lowest point, which is shown to us through both the lyrics and melody. The beat is composed almost entirely of a deep bass, setting a dark tone that matches Igor’s current state of mind. He hasn’t accepted that this relationship is over yet, and is still struggling with the fact that it’s gone. Igor endlessly pleads ”Please don’t leave me now”, absolutely desperate to salvage whatever he can. He tries to convince his boyfriend that what they have is special, and that his previous girlfriend can’t compare to Igor- ”I need to get her out the picture, she’s really f*ckin’ up my frame, she’s not developed like we are”. He’s completely overtaken with jealousy and envy, going as far as threatening to kill his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s ex girlfriend, telling him ”She’s gonna be dead, I just got a magic wand, we can finally be together” and ”You under oath, pick a side, if you don’t, murder she wrote”.

Tyler has said that this is his favorite song he’s ever made, and I’m inclined to agree; it’s certainly up there. ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’ does a perfect job of putting you in the exact mental state of Igor, making you feel as if his life will end if he’s not able to save this. If this is truly based off of events that Tyler went through like I believe it is, it just makes this song that much more impactful knowing that he was in this awful of a headspace at some point in his life. Igor simply cannot fathom the fact that it’s really over, and he’ll do anything to prevent having to accept it. Just like the song tells us, ”Like magic, like magic, gone”.


Track 06: A BOY IS A GUN*

After the loud, stressful, and depressing ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’, ‘A BOY IS A GUN*’ provides a nice, soothing beat to calm you down. At this point, Igor’s partner has officially moved on, as the music video shows a man moving out of a house while Igor is left to roam it and its outdoor gardens. Throughout the track, he constantly flips between feelings of remorse and extreme anger at his now ex-boyfriend. To Igor, no one else is the same. He says that everyone else is lame, and shows no respect; he clearly doesn’t want to be left alone. And yet, he also tells his ex-boyfriend “Oh, you wanna go home? Cool, better call you a cab” and ”I’ma leave it at that, I’ma leave us as friends, ’cause the irony is I don’t wanna see you again”.

Igor’s ex-boyfriend is like a gun because he’s dangerous for Igor to be around; ”Boy, you’re sweet as sugar, diabetic to the first degree”. He also wants him by his side at all times, because he keeps Igor safe, a feeling that nothing or nobody else can give him. The song constantly compares being in a loving relationship to gun ownership, and manages to mix gunshots in with a subdued beat and make it work. If ‘RUNNING OUT OF TIME’ and ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’ are about the denial, anger, and bargaining stages of grief, ‘A BOY IS A GUN*’ covers the depression stage.


Track 07: PUPPET

I find it weird that ‘Puppet’ isn’t discussed as much as a lot of Igor‘s other tracks, as this is the one that features Kanye, and it’s the first time he’s been in a Tyler song since Cherry Bomb‘s ‘SMUCKERS’. There’s some interesting connections between this album, Tyler, and Kanye- ‘A BOY IS A GUN*’ samples the song ‘Bound’ by 70’s soul group Ponderosa Twins Plus One, the same song that Kanye’s famous Yeezus track ‘Bound 2’ also samples. It’s where the recognizable ‘Bound to fall in love’ and ‘Uh-Huh Honey’ lyrics come from, and strangely enough, Tyler was a producer of the original version of ‘Bound 2’.

‘PUPPET’ is about how in love Igor still is with his ex-boyfriend, and how thoughts of him still control Igor like a puppet. The song begins with Igor telling us ‘I wanna talk, I wanna walk to your front door and knock’, and describes a day full of time spent together, and then says ”God, that’s all I want, other than air.” Igor wants his ex to feel the same emotions towards him, and that’s why he’s still being controlled. He says he’ll do anything, asking what he wants from him, before finally admitting, “I do not have self control, I am startin’ to wonder, is this my free will or yours?”

‘PUPPET’s beat is very patient, and has a strangely comforting, yet creepy sound to it. Igor has finally reached the final stage in the grieving process: acceptance. He realizes what’s been happening- “I’m your puppet, you control me”. His every thought and action has been dedicated to appeasing his ex-boyfriend in the hopes that a spark might reignite, and he’s tired of it. Igor starts to live his own life again. The song ends with a voice telling us “But at some point, you come to your senses”.


Track 08: WHAT’S GOOD

This is a very harsh change of pace from the two previous tracks. From the very first second, ‘WHAT’S GOOD’ is unapologetically loud, intense, and angry. Having listened to it many times, it doesn’t really seem to play a part in the overall story, which is odd, considering it’s the only song on the entire album that references Igor by name. The music video just features Igor aggressively dancing and becoming more and more upset while performing. I think it’s supposed to be a look into Igor’s mind after he realizes that he’s been living in denial; he’s finally broken free from the shackles of this relationship, and he’s angry he was stuck in them for so long.

This is the only song on Igor that I would call a ‘rap’ song, and Tyler does its rap verses ridiculously well. If I’m correct on what this track is supposed to represent, then it does an exquisite job of making you feel the same emotions that Igor is going through. I think the song starts to fall apart a tiny bit when the flawless rap sections end, and we’re given a weird synth beat to bridge them. It’s too drastic of a change, and ends up working against the song’s overall quality in the end. If not for these annoying few seconds of synth every now and then, this would be an impeccable rap song. But, they’re easy to ignore, and the rest is good enough for me to forgive them.



Igor has finally calmed down, and he’s trying to explain that he no longer has feelings, although it’s obvious he still does. He tells his ex-boyfriend “My love is gone, my love is gone”, but later tells him “I just hope to God she got good taste’ and ‘I hope you know she can’t compete with me’, still subtly trying to convince him that she will never give him a relationship as good as Igor has. He continually drives home the point that he’s over it; “Ask me where my love go, that bi*ch walked outside the front door’, almost trying to convince both himself and his ex that he no longer has feelings.

We’re almost given an explanation of why they broke up; “We had two different blueprints, but understood influence, you opened up early on, I thought I had a permit, you started buildin’ a bridge and turned it into fence, then my buldin’ got tore down all because of your new tenant”. Like I said earlier, we don’t know if this is what actually happened, as Igor has been established as an unreliable narrator. And, of course, after he’s explained how he no longer holds any feelings, and they’ve had a talk about why their relationship ended, he can’t help himself, and says ”I hate wasted potential, that s*it crushes your spirit, it really does, it crushes your soul”.

In the second part of the song, Igor thanks his ex-boyfriend for all of the positive memories and time they spent together. It seems as if he wants to end things on a more positive note after his obsessiveness in ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’, ‘A BOY IS A GUN*’, and ‘PUPPET’. “Thank you for the love, thank you for the joy, thank you for the time, thank you for your mind, but I don’t ever wanna fall in love again”.



At this point, Igor has fully convinced himself that he’s over it. ”And realize there’s more fish in the sea, I’ma re-up”, “But this might just be better for us, you know?” But, at this point, we know better. He is seemingly incapable of truly moving on, no matter how hard he wants to believe he has. “I don’t love you no more, tell me where to go, can I have my heart back?” Deep inside, he knows that this isn’t the truth, and he still desires his ex-boyfriend’s love. “Now I’m stuck forever, and ever, and ever”.



In this unquestionably perfect finale, Igor is still trying his hardest to hold onto even the smallest of fragments from this relationship that’s been over for quite a while. He asks if they can still be friends, needing this person to still be in his life in some way. He explains that “I don’t want this season to end on a bad episode”, and asks to keep in contact. The chorus and beat of this song really nail the melancholic tone it’s trying to capture; ‘ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?’ will make you feel things if you’ve gotten invested. There are barely any lyrics, and the few that there are are mostly just asking ”Are we still friends?”. To me, this just shows how good this beat is, as it’s able to completely carry the feel and emotion of a song on some synth and guitar twangs.

Igor knows in his heart that this person that he’s grown so attached to will never love him again, and it’s just something he has to learn to live with. Igor asks if they can stay friends because he cares for his ex-boyfriend so deeply that he simply cannot continue living without being in his life to some capacity. The final lyric of the entire album is “Can’t say goodbye, Can’t say goodbye, goodbye”. This isn’t over, and it never will be.


I’ll include a link to the playlist of several music videos made for the album- while only a few songs got full-length ones, they’re great, and worth watching at least once. Igor won best rap album at the 62nd Grammys, which I (and many others) disagree with. It deserved to win whatever category it was put in, but this is NOT a rap album. I think the quote from Tyler himself best describes the situation- “I’m very grateful that what I made could just be acknowledged in a world like this. But also, it sucks that whenever we, and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in a ‘rap’ or ‘urban’ category. Why can’t we just be in pop?” The album does contain many aspects that could be seen as falling in line with rap or hip hop, but it really shouldn’t be considered as that overall. Like I said earlier, it’s best to view it as something that doesn’t really fit into a genre. Calling it a rap or pop album takes away from what Tyler has done with Igor.

It’s hard to explain exactly why this album is a masterpiece. Everything just blends together so well; each song is completely different from the last, but they all have a really nice synergy. You really need to sit down and just listen to it a couple of times to fully appreciate it. My favorite track is still ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’, but several others rival it, most notably ‘A BOY IS A GUN*’ and ‘ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?’. There are a lot of different ways the story and themes of Igor could be interpreted, and this is just the one I believe to be true. There are probably a lot more details and lyrics I didn’t even think about, which really speaks to the overall quality of Igor and Tyler as an artist. The Google Doc of random notes I took while relistening to it a couple of times probably explains it better than this article does.

Final tracklist ranking:












Link to the music video playlist:

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