Fresh off the release of his album “IGOR,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, Tyler, the Creator headlined the first night of The Governors Ball with great charm and skill.
The rapper emerged to the sinister tones of “IGOR’S THEME,” the opening track of his new album. Bedecked in a brightly-colored suit and blonde bowl cut wig, of the type seen in the music video for new single “EARFQUAKE,” Tyler easily enthralled the audience, who joyfully sang along from the opening song. Tyler seemed genuinely moved that the new album, his first number one hit, had been so warmly received by the audience. He talked about not being sure that people would like the new album, which he described as being about heartbreak. This album, like its predecessor “Flower Boy,” marked a change from Tyler’s previous sound: a mellowing of harsher notes and a maturation of subject matter. Both Tyler’s new and older work were well received — he didn’t shy away from performing some early, more provocative and offensive tracks, as well as his newer, more vulnerable material.
Tyler began with his newest songs and worked backwards and then forwards again, his oldest material sandwiched in the middle. After beginning his set with an excellent run of tracks from “IGOR,” Tyler changed costumes, and re-emerged in a more casual look to perform some choice cuts from “Flower Boy.” Highlights from his most recent albums included the brooding “NEW MAGIC WAND” from “Igor” and “911 / Mr. Lonely” from “Flower Boy.” Tyler then performed a version of “BIKING,” a Frank Ocean track he’s featured on, and the heavy-hitting “OKRA,” which worked as a way to transition back to his harsher material.
Older tracks he performed included his attention-getting “Yonkers” from “Goblin,” the love-hate number “IFHY” from “Wolf,” and the love song from the perspective of a murderous stalker “She” from “Goblin.” Tyler confessed to, or claimed to forget lyrics from these older songs, and skipped delivering portions of them, which softened their effect. He said that he didn’t often perform these songs, and certainly performing rarely-delivered tracks the better part of a decade old is a feat. It was almost no matter: Audience members easily rapped along with the words he had forgotten.
After running through these older tracks, Tyler returned to his newer material, launching into the heavy-hitting “Who Dat Boy” from “Flower Boy.” He concluded with his pop-esque hits, “EARFQUAKE” from “IGOR” and “See You Again” from “Flower Boy.” These are beautiful tracks — loving, lovelorn, open, and big-hearted.
By slotting his older material in the middle of his set, Tyler effectively reframed some of the older pieces. His new work is marked by new openness about matters of the heart. Granted, Tyler has never shied away from talking about what’s on his mind, or his darker thoughts and emotions. But by rapping more about love, and being more open about who he loves (in terms of his sexual orientation), Tyler has created music that is newly and bravely open. Where his music has previously been marked by a proliferation of personae, his newer work seems finally, movingly, about himself. He concluded the set by talking about how he was worried that “IGOR” would be hated. His set and its reception proved that, far from being hated or hateful, this music is strong and loved.
— Staff writer A.J. Cohn can be reached at email@example.com.