The man that once yielded fear among us, was now indulged in fear - And this is his full admission into the unnerving dark sea.
EᗰᗷᖇᗩᑕIᑎG OᑎEᔕEᒪᖴ, ᑭᗩᖇT 2:
TᕼE ᗩᗪᗰIᔕᔕIOᑎ Oᖴ ᖴEᗩᖇ, ᖴᒪOᗯEᖇ ᗷOY - TYᒪEᖇ, TᕼE ᑕᖇEᗩTOᖇ
ᴛʜᴇ ᴀᴄᴛ ᴏꜰ ᴀɢʀᴇᴇɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ꜱᴏᴍᴇᴛʜɪɴɢ ɪꜱ ᴛʀᴜᴇ, ᴇꜱᴘᴇᴄɪᴀʟʟʏ ᴜɴᴡɪʟʟɪɴɢʟʏ.]
Admission is first shown in literally the first few lyrics of the opening track, where Tyler is reflective and frankly, having an existential crisis. “How much time do I have left?” is a question that middle-aged people usually ask, not younglings. Yet, it’s clear that Tyler’s been through a lot, from growing up with a single parent to vile lyricism, getting banned in the UK, and then working with Kanye and Wayne, he’s been through a lot. Even with just a slight resting of the mind, fear crept in.
Fear is an emotion caused by the threat of danger, and in the production period of Flower Boy, Tyler was a man who needed to be persuasive to the masses. He wasn’t the young man crowned by countless critics and audiences like he is now, he was a younger man who was seen as “he has potential, but what else can he really make aside from Yonkers?” With the critically in-between release of Cherry Bomb, the threat became more apparent. For once, he was a man who needed to appease the public, not one that previously couldn’t give 2 stacks of emeralds to care.
On Flower Boy, putting aside the beautiful and brilliant sound, there’s an outcry of fear. Unwilling to show, yet left with no choice but to.
See You Again, a song that is about the reminiscing of a dream, where a dream partner appears to be short-lived. Tyler fears their departure, yet covers the weakness with such a poppy instrumental. Garden Shed, a song about hiding in the closet, frustrated with his fear of coming out and facing the world, as a different identity, scared by the perception of the people. 911/Mr. Lonely, a song about loneliness as you could tell, with the explosion of feelings in the latter half, a confession of the fear of loneliness and peer perception. Examples go on and on.
The album presents itself as more of a diary for Tyler, a book about his daily thoughts. “How many cars can I buy till I run out of drive?” “I say the loudest in the room is probably the loneliest in the room.” “I ain’t got time for these pleasant individuals of African descent, who tend to have mid to dark brown complexion of skin color!” It’s distant from his previous works, where Tyler tends to barricade his emotional weaknesses from his music, case in point, all of his albums except Wolf and She from Goblin. Artistic progress, sure, but more so, personal progress.
From a personal perspective, Tyler provides insight into his mind that we’ve never seen before. Loneliness, boredom, even his sexuality, early Tyler wouldn’t have been exposing his own feelings like this. Perhaps, he was still unwilling to at this point. Yet, he had no choice but to submit to the fact that he is in fact, weak and vulnerable. Fear of weakness. Yet, the album ends on a good note, concluding with a love song Glitter, and the mellow instrumental outro Enjoy Right Now, Today. It’s a sign of improvement - by letting his fear be exposed instead of hiding them, in a garden shed if you will, he is now freed from his own mental barriers - Just from the admission of fear.
The production quality on Flower Boy is a massive step forward for Tyler. We can talk all day about his ability as a producer on Goblin or Wolf, but one thing’s certain: He is so, so much better on here. Cherry Bomb had flashes of brilliance, and Flower Boy was the album where he grabs his talent and fully harnesses it, transforming into a beautiful and opulent sunflower, among the rich and lush land that is so similar to the one drawn in the album cover.
Aside from Tyler’s performances, the guest list also delivers. Frank Ocean on 911/Mr. Lonely, Estelle on Garden Shed, Rex Orange County on Boredom, just to name a few. Tyler likes to use guest features as instruments to the whole composition, and these few features show my point fully.
At the end of the day, this album succeeded because Tyler showed his innermost fears. It’s okay to give up on the pursuit of toxic masculinity, it’s okay to show emotional weaknesses. And the realization of it, accompanied by the admission of fear, made this album so humane. And that’s why it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. Tyler the Creator, Flower Boy, the admission of fear.