Album Review: Tyler, The Creator // CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST

Two years after the Grammy-winning IGOR, Tyler, The Creator has never sounded more aware that people are listening on CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST.

Standing straight as an arrow in a bellboy pink suit, Tyler, The Creator (Igor for the night) is clutching a salmon suitcase, seemingly awaiting a summons from Wes Anderson’s imagined Budapest Hotel. He kneels to clicking cameras and opens his luggage to reveal the outfit he would wear later that night. It’s the 62nd Grammys and the artist is the red carpet’s main attraction. Despite the scrutiny, one crucial detail goes mostly unnoticed: a tag on the suitcase’s handle reads “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” in tiny lettering. Little did we know that eighteen months later, those words would be revealed as the title to Tyler’s sixth album.

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST was announced only a week ago but it is pretty obvious Tyler has been in the studio preparing this release for quite some time. The new body of work builds on his appetite for performance more than its acclaimed predecessor, knowing almost all too well that all eyes are on him.

IGOR’s showmanship took the form of character-building, significantly reinforced by accompanying visuals but not overwhelmingly present in the music itself. We’re now introduced to another alias, Tyler Baudelaire, a wealthy jet-setter who leisures in the French Riviera and its surroundings. The short “SIR BAUDELAIRE” sets the scene as Tyler comes down the steps of a private jet, a stone’s throw away from Lake Geneva, as the hot dense summer air seeps in from each and every direction.

This new character is initially presented as overflowing with confidence, claiming the nickname “Mr. Always On Some Shit You Never Seen” on the phenomenal “CORSO”. Cracks soon appear beneath the surface (“Eyes is cryin’ on the jet”), but Tyler Baudelaire has his ways of compensating (“Remember I was rich so I bought me some new emotions”). First single “LUMBERJACK” also flexes his accumulated wealth, breaking with the melodic IGOR to nod ever so slightly to the horrorcore accents of his early work with a boom-bap undertone. Hyped by DJ Drama and Jasper Dolphin, Tyler sounds like he’s playing for a crowd and relishes the performance as he celebrates wins left and right.

DJ Drama narrates all proper songs but one, adding to the outward-facing facet of the collection of tracks. His input adds a touch of humor and levity that quickly turns cheesy and, at times, invasive–see his patronizing interruption on “MASSA”, the first time Tyler sounds truly vulnerable on the album. “WILSHIRE” is the one track where Tyler is in complete control of the narration: no DJ Drama in sight, just Tyler, a broken heart, and a hell of a story.

Now, Tyler’s new choice of moniker is far from fortuitous: French poet Baudelaire’s fame relies partly on his coining the term “spleen” in French to describe ennui, an unshakable profound boredom and dissatisfaction with life. Appropriately, Tyler Baudelaire is in search of thrills to mend a broken heart and finds himself unable to fill a void. On “MASSA” he admits “I’m on the hunt for perfect but decent is what I been on” shortly after deploring the wasted beauty of life (“A flower gets his petal, they pluck it, but never use it”): where Tyler sees potential from growth others only see the immediate gratification of harvest.

The emotional crux of the album is a tragic story of a love that cannot be, for now. Just like IGOR revolved around a flavour of unrequited love, tracing the journey of being the odd man out in a love triangle and coming to terms with it, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST sees Tyler lose his mind over a girl whose own relationship gets in the way of their potential as a couple. Continuing Tyler’s tradition of a two-parter track number ten, “SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE”s early infatuation doesn’t last: arpeggiated synths break down along the first part, already suggesting a dissonance of feelings between the two protagonists. The sweet turns sour when Tyler wonders “Why am I here standing alone” as the asymmetrical relationship fosters a Baudelairian spleen.

But the album doesn’t wallow needlessly: the journey of CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is a three-dimensional affair with tremendous texture. Throughout arrangements combine a feeling of jazz improv and rap freestyle for maximal unpredictability. Uncompromising, Tyler synthesizes his previous work and evergreen inspirations artfully, like in the Neptunes’ energy of ‘RISE!’, filled with cascading cymbals and avalanches of string flourishes. Only “JUGGERNAUT” is a jarring blot that doesn’t feel quite like it belongs on the project–which makes some sense considering rumor has it the track was originally recorded for Pharrell and Uzi’s scrapped collaborative project No LUV Lost.

With CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, Tyler demonstrates how intentional his artistry has become. Less provocative certainly, more conceptual no doubt, Tyler still displays quirks that will not (and should not) be smoothed out. Some moments will most likely leave the listener scratching their head–including the lyrical bunny hopping from attempts to get into Justin Bieber’s pants to racially motivated brutality in “MANIFESTO”–, but they are few and far between.

Rating

Tyler, The Creator’s CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is out now and available to stream and download

Author avatar
Red Dziri

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