PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Tyler, The Creator: Flower Boy

All the imperfections and risk-taking of Tyler’s past efforts bloom into fruition now on his most beautiful and open record to date.

Tyler, The Creator

Flower Boy

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2017-07-21

Odd Future leader Tyler, The Creator is one of those artists where, looking back over his career, one could trace a clear trajectory from where he began to where he is now. From the early Odd Future tapes to the shock rap of Goblin to the production improvements on Wolf to the dabbling in neo-soul on tracks like “Find Your Wings” from Cherry Bomb, each album has built on itself in some way or another as Tyler has attempted to perfect his craft and dive deeper into his psyche.

To this point, Tyler’s honest exploration of music and emotion has been fruitful, if inconsistent. His production has often been compared to his idol and collaborator Pharrell, while other influences like Eminem (“Colossus”), and on his last record, Death Grips (“CHERRY BOMB”), are obvious sometimes to the point of mimicry. And his personal soul-searching has often been bogged down by distractions and thematic crutches such as using a fictional therapist and other characters for three albums to help him with his feelings.

But all the imperfections and risk-taking of Tyler’s past efforts bloom into fruition now on Flower Boy, his most beautiful and open record to date. While connections will still be made to the Neptunes, particularly on tracks like instrumental closer “Enjoy Right Now, Today” with its flat, punchy drums and even an appearance by Pharrell, Tyler’s production and arrangement has never sounded this good. From beginning to end, he capitalizes on the neo-soul and jazzy elements he’s flirted with previously to create a smooth, conceptual, even cinematic album.

The piano interludes, subdued jazz chords, and string arrangements highlighted on tracks like “Where This Flower Blooms” create an atmosphere for Tyler to daydream in his McLaren, while the sinister first minute of absolute banger “Who Dat Boy” creates a tension akin to the themes from Jaws or Psycho. The features on the album make this album stronger as well. While Tyler has obviously worked on his singing chops since previous efforts, he still prefers to call on talented friends like Frank Ocean, Rex Orange County, and Kali Uchis to deliver gorgeously dreamy hooks, most notably on “Where This Flower Blooms”, “See You Again”, and “911/Mr. Lonely”.

While on the subject of features, Lil Wayne’s verse on “Droppin’ Seeds” is one of his best in years, employing “flowery” puns and innuendos over an excellent jazz track. In fact, flowers and gardens are some of the main themes of Flower Boy (obviously). And these themes are symbols used, as many have pointed out already, to talk about Tyler’s apparent “coming out". He hints not so subtly at this throughout the album. On “Garden Shed”, Tyler confesses “Garden shed for the garçons / Them feelings that I was guardin’ / Heavy on my mind.” And again on “I Ain’t Got Time”, “I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.” And those are just a few of the most obvious points.

Much has been made of Tyler’s sexuality, and it’s been talked about probably way too much. But what this revelation does is create a new lens with which to look through the history of Tyler’s career. Many had criticized Tyler of alleged homophobia (among other things) with his rampant use of slurs like “faggot” (a word that doesn’t show up on this album once). But with this new set of songs, it’s almost as if a total re-evaluation of Tyler’s music is necessary as we’ve gotten a clearer view of who he is and where his emotions are.

What we did already know about Tyler’s emotions is that he has struggled with loneliness and longing for companionship. And again on Flower Boy, these feelings take center stage as he claims “boredom got a new best friend”. And on the depressing (but brilliant) “911/Mr. Lonely”, Tyler is at his most broken as he calls himself out for obsessing about his car: “I know you sick of me talkin ‘bout cars / But what the fuck else do you want from me? / That is the only thing keepin’ me company." He also comments on his past records where he developed fictional characters, saying “I say the loudest in the room is prolly the loneliest one in the room / Attention seeker, public speaker / Oh my god, that boy there is so fuckin’ lonely / Writin’ songs about these people who do not exist / He’s such a fuckin’ phony." Tyler has moved past needing a fictional therapist to help him express his deepest emotions and is able to do it effectively through his own reflection, his own ranting, and his expressive production savvy.

The close of the album finds our lone wolf more optimistic about the present and future with songs like “November”, a symbol of the good times on which a guest speaker shares, “My November is right now.” The following track “Glitter” is a love song which contrasts the previously used “Mirror mirror on the wall / Who the loneliest of them all” by changing “loneliest” to “brightest”, an obvious change in tone brought about by dropping the weight of the loneliness and stress holding him down before.

And finally, the album ends with the hopeful instrumental jam “Enjoy Right Now, Today”, which holds a special future-focused optimism when combined with the track one title, a technique Tyler has used on all his albums (“Inglorious” and “Bastard”, “Lone” and “Wolf”, etc.) So with a little wordplay, it reads “Enjoy Right Now, Today Foreword”. With an album as well thought out and arranged as Flower Boy playing on repeat, “right now” is absolutely enjoyable.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.