Tyler, the Creator: The Grinch EP
By John Martin
Tyler, the Creator has not always been known for family-friendly content. Many of his past lyrics and comments have been misogynistic, homophobic or just generally offensive. But after last year’s Flower Boy presented some of the most shockingly sincere music of his career, one had to ask: where will this oddball innovator will go next? His answer: Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss' The Grinch, a high-profile collaboration with the animation studio rolled out alongside the blockbuster remake. Ahead of this EP, Tyler produced two songs for the film: a modernized cover of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and the original song “I Am The Grinch”. If those two songs weren’t enough for you, he’s back with a 10-minute, six-track EP of entirely new material inspired by the movie.
Musically, the EP (officially titled Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss' The Grinch) could pass for a collection of Flower Boy B-Sides, just with more horns and sleigh bells. As a producer, Tyler expertly toes the line between novelty project and serious album. Tracks like “Whoville” and “Cindy Lou’s Wish” are wintry instrumental sketches that easily could have underscored scenes in The Grinch, whereas “Big Bag” and “Lights On” could work by themselves as singles. Along with purposefully blurring soundtrack cuts and songs in their own right, Tyler wanted the EP to stand on its own by not being fully tethered to the holiday season. In a tweet, he said he aimed for something not “too xmasy” so the songs could be “played in june too.”
With features from Ryan Beatty, Santigold and Jerry Paper, the short EP is just as collaborative as his previous solo albums. If anything, Tyler serves as more of a producer than the main artist, pitching in a verse at the end of “Lights On” and adding some backing vocals on “Hot Chocolate.” However, Tyler still brings his personal charm to the project, such as his gruff rap in “Big Bag” about his Christmases as a child, and his compelling roleplaying on “I Am The Grinch”. By blurring the song’s perspective, Tyler implicitly likens himself to the movie’s main character—and it’s hard not to see the comparison. With a history of controversy and problematic comments, the Grinch may just be the perfect misguided miscreant for Tyler to compare himself to.
Be it self awareness or just a coincidence, attaching himself to this character reveals more depth than would be expected from an album tied to a kids’ movie. Though much of it does feel half-baked, inessential, it is still refreshing to hear new Christmas music that does not rehash overused tropes or simply cover the classics again. Due to Tyler’s penchant for wacky ideas with a lot of heart, a collaboration with a Dr. Seuss remake makes so much sense.