Album Review: Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator

Album Review: Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator

California and Odd Future's own - Tyler Okonma - follows up his release of Cherry Bomb with a more personified Flower Boy

Charlie Brown

Flower Boy is the fourth studio album from Tyler, The Creator and it may just be the most mature release to date by Odd Future’s co-founder.

As the title and album cover hints towards, this is a tale of someone finally blooming and able to show their true colours. 

When you compare that to the radical Cherry Bomb - Tyler’s last album - it's quite a stark contrast; the 2015 release had an overall positive message but delivered in a notoriously loud and brutal fashion. 

While Flower Boy’s predecessor lacked in a final stage of engineering (Tyler admitted this myself) the same can't be said this time around. 

Although, what can be said is that these two albums share a wealth of talented guests: A$AP Rocky, Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy and Lil Wayne all appear on Flower Boy.

Perhaps what has been lacking from Tyler’s music over the years is a level of maturity and sincerity towards himself and others. 

So this begs the question when approaching Flower Boy: "Does it follow the narrative of a typical Tyler, The Creator creation or change the course of a career?".

Maturity in abundance 

'Foreword' - the opener - immediately installs the idea that this is a different project; 'DEATHCAMP' opened Cherry Bomb and set the president for an insanely whacky set of tracks. 

Where we left Tyler on his previous album is where we pick up on Foreword, on 'KEEP DA O’s' Tyler joked that he's not used to rapping about materialistic things like diamonds and cars but that becomes Flower Boy’s roots. 

Except, it's also his void-filler; where he may have had people to accompany him this isn't the case anymore - materialism has replaced partnership in his life. 

Towards the end of Foreword it's as if the swaying of synths and odd chords are leading us down a dead end, much to Tyler’s despair. 

“If I fall and don't come back” almost implies that he isn't willing to carry on, running out of road and land before reaching the inevitable drown of an ocean. 

Ironically an Ocean follows in the form of Frank on 'Where This Flower Blooms' - a melodic blooming of piano chords turns into an explosive chorus. 

Both these artists have expressed their love for vehicles over people and love to build metaphors around cars: Frank’s 'White Ferrari' stands out in last year’s Blonde

With Flower Boy’s first two tracks we’re introduced to a new version of Tyler, one that is more open and honest, clear about what it is he wants to talk about. 

One critique of his music in the past has been its awkward-randomness and off-key messages, but then again that's also what makes Tyler the success-story we see today. 

Loud and Proud

'Who Dat Boy' and 'I Ain't Got Time!' - two lead singles - both express a previous -- more relative -- side of Tyler; braggadocios and unapologetic in approach and leaving little to imagination. 

The former uses brand-drops like there's no tomorrow while the latter reminds one of ‘THE BROWN STAINS OF DARKEESE LATIFAH PART 6-12 (Long-winded name). 

With I Ain't Got Time it's not just about having no time for people — it's more to do with having no time for “b*****s” since Tyler’s “been kissing white boys since 2004"

For Who Dat Boy’s music video we see Tyler blazing along and the song epitomises this aggressive drive for a fast paced life. But with one pothole and the exclamation of “f***”, we’re lead into the following song - Pothole - which features Jaden Smith.

Surprisingly, Smith really does add a well needed third dimension to track six. And yes, surprisingly being the operative word there; Smith doesn't usually come across as an artist, more like a guest actor thinking out-loud whatever he's been told to (see Kauai by Childish Gambino). 

Nothing before the centre-track 'Garden Shed' leads us to believe this is an album about a man coming out to the world but track seven knocks vigorously on that metaphorical door of open sexuality. 

Though it starts out in similar fashion to some of the slow-moving jazzy tracks on Cherry Bomb (see 'Find Your Wings') this only acts as a set up for the open-hearted Tyler. 

Speaking on his past he admits he's been trying to “find the words to say in the garden shed” until he finally does and it's poetic in every way: Tyler tells of his friends not reading “the signs, I didn't wanna talk” and that he thought it “was a phase, thought it'd be like the Frank, poof, gone”

Due to the nature of Tyler’s rapping on here — rushed, diluted and lacking in joy — it's a sign that it's a subject he wants to get out there but not drag out.  Almost as if he wants it to hide in plain sight; if you were to be casually listening to Flower Boy you might just miss what he reveals. 

Standout moments 

'Boredom' and '911/Mr. Lonely' really stand out in many ways: not just musically but emotionally too as Tyler’s world of thoughts is spooled out into lyrics. 

On Boredom Tyler spills on his lack of friendships and when juxtaposed with '2SEATER' on Cherry Bomb it's kind of a sad state. The opening lines on here suggest that his boredom - driving around town - could lead to him just crashing and flying “out the window”

While it comes across as a mellow, relaxing summer track Boredom is really a depiction of a person so lonely that the only friend they have in life is boredom. Then 911/Mr. Lonely escalates that notion to a new level of a suspected depression with Tyler; calling out for help leads nowhere for him and his loneliness is only numbed by the possession of cars to once again fill that void in his life. 

In freakish fashion the split-song ends with Tyler revealing that the result of no-one answering his “911” call he could be forced to press and shoot his nine (gun) twice: “Ask how I'm really doin’, so I never have to press that 9-1-1”.

Talking of stand-out tracks, 'November' arguably is the most potent and well-made of all 14. From the old-school hip/hop beat to Tyler’s articulate message and voice-messages by guests painting a glum-picture of searching back in time for a better existence.

With depression comes a longing for a past time of happiness as opposed to wishing for a nicer future, November hones in on this and Tyler pulls it off to perfection. Even the slow-and-dreary ending where the melody distorts it's so encasing and bleak to the point of feeling the way he does inside. 

In spectacular fashion though, 'Glitter' is the complete antithesis of November: glistening instrumentals match Tyler’s lighter voice filled with joy. 

Yet, with the mood quickly shifting and the dial tone telling us the message wasn't recorded, Tyler wants to show that the feeling of ecstasy never lasts and any positive message he wants to portray just doesn't come to fruition.

Much like the closing track, Glitter offers hope but slowly descends into darkness and an ever-looming fear.

Does the Flower Bloom?

Flower Boy’s soulful sound and introspective thoughts will leave you longing for more; Tyler’s production makes for an enjoyable listen and his lyrics allow us to stand idle by his -- perhaps -- troubling time.

As a whole the album feels like an ongoing metaphor, that the drive Tyler is taking right now has times of fast-paced euphoria but their descent into more bleak-and-sedated struggles forms a loneliness that cannot be solved by anyone.

We hear Tyler jump in and out of his car from start to finish, hear him stick on his favourite radio station — even call in to request a track. 

Perhaps the leisure of driving had once been an enjoyable experience but the monotony and never-ending road has now become an image of a depressive life, one that he wishes would end. 

Along the way he confounds people-problems with potholes, his weirdness that defined him in the past now just haunts him and it's no longer marketable -- it's actually an every-day struggle to be alone in a mansion watching Clarence

In putting Who Dat Boy and 911 together for a music video it's like Tyler is expressing his deep desire to turn away from the boisterous being that once ringed success on Cherry Bomb.

Then turning to the album cover, one that portrays an image of life passing you by at will; Tyler watches on as the bees distance themselves from him. Perhaps a metaphor in itself as these bees signify the “hunnies” in his past that he now admits he's not interested in. 

As for the production Tyler really made sure this was near to perfection with every song leading to another so smoothly and effortlessly. Moods sway and dither at will to connote a change in personality and a complicated mind that's enraged with fear, loneliness and - at times - suicidal motives. 

Rich pianos and violin string-sets on Where This Flower Blooms will have you feeling summery yet nervy-and-warped keys on Who Dat Boy play well with the heavy bassline to create an in-your-face track. 

Soothing beats from 911/Mr. Lonely could have anyone tapping their toes in tune while Boredom could set the radio-sound alight in spite of its negative overtones. 

The only shortcomings of the album still aren't too much to worry about; ‘Sometimes…’ and Droppin’ Seeds aren’t there to shout about but don't last long enough to cause a problem. 

Glitter’s quite obvious cheesiness might make you cringe but after a few listens but…it's simply catchy. 

More than just an Album...

With the recent horrifying news of Chester Bennington, Flower Boy shouldn't be taken as lightly as some of its instrumentals - this is a one-way counselling session from Tyler.

The reveal of his sexuality can't be the only thing people take away from Tyler’s fourth album as there's just so much more context to it. 

Right now it seems as if Tyler is in a dark place (not that he hasn't always been a dark writer) with no escape other than the 9-1-1, on November he admits these thoughts could be his last. 

Hopefully for him, his family and his fans they won't be; Flower Boy is a brilliant album and no matter the critical reception, Tyler, The Creator can be proud of his elegant creation.