In the 1960s, cherry bomb firecrackers became illegal in the United States as they posed a safety risk to children. Cherry bombs were made from two halves that formed a sphere when glued together, half filled with flash powder with the remaining air creating a louder bang when the firework exploded. The title of Tyler, The Creator’s latest release, Cherry Bomb, can be interpreted as a self-aware, but sardonic response to his critics who argue he promotes ideas and messages that are unsafe for young listeners. This is despite his sound and lyrical content having evolved in the opposite direction, which is ironically epitomized most completely by his new album. A voice at the end of the track ‘Buffalo’ reminds Tyler, “There are so many young kids right now listening to this album”. Tyler still brings the powder, but a different kind of bang.
Cherry Bomb is a standalone album with no direct links in narrative to Tyler’s three previous albums, however, obvious themes of summer, teenage relationships, nervousness, nostalgia and being young are a continuation of many that were first heard on Wolf. The significant change between albums is the mood from one of depression to one of vitality, personified by Tyler’s vocal effects on the track ‘F—ing Young’. He heightens his pitch, which adds to the album’s childish/nostalgic tone, but it contrasts to his previous trademark voice alterations to sound deeper and darker. Odd Future’s long-term, devoted listeners should be able to understand that while the expression and narrative voice of Tyler’s messages has changed since Bastard and Goblin, the underpinning meanings are the same. This is evident in Cherry Bomb’s climax, ‘Find Your Wings’, emphasized throughout with the album’s motif to “go find your wings, learn how to fly” by being yourself and focusing on what you love. This is no different to Goblin’s ‘Radicals’, especially at the end when Tyler states for all of Tumblr to reblog, “I’m not saying to go out and do some stupid shit, commit crimes. What I’m trying to tell you is, do what the f— you want. Stand for what the f— you believe in…” Tyler’s content went from anti-establishment to build your own establishment, further demonstrated by his entrepreneurial successes including Golf Wang and Golf Media.
The sequencing of Cherry Bomb encourages a continuous listen from start to end and plays like a snapshot at a specific moment in time, somewhat reminiscent of the premise for Bret Easton Ellis’ Rules of Attraction. The influences of Pharrell and N.E.R.D. are strong, immediately noticeable with the flow and instrumentation of ‘Deathcamp’. ‘Deathcamp’ is one of the first instances on the album to use a lot of distortion. Tyler commonly uses piano chords and female vocals to compliment his low and usually energetic cadence, but they also provide calming respite from the intensity and frequent over-use of distortion on some tracks, particularly title track ‘Cherry Bomb’. He employs multiple flows within the same song a number of times on the album, executing it best on the track, ‘The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah Part 6-12 (Remix)’. An instantly iconic chord line is intermittently repeated while various drums hit hard with additional popping sounds seemingly inspired by mid-2000s trap music. While all these sounds battle for the audience’s attention like Mayweather versus Pacquiao, Tyler switches back and forth between flows. In Parts 9 and 10 Tyler tries a rapping style he hasn’t used previously, and it is the album’s highlight. On an album devoid of Odd Future features other than Syd Tha Kyd’s angelic backing vocals, Schoolboy Q seamlessly slides in on this song as if he’s been rhyming with Tyler since high school. Q uses the flows he’s best known for and maintains both Tyler’s and the beat’s energy until the song’s close.
In the words of Kanye West on ‘Smuckers’, “They say I’m crazy but that’s the best thing going for me…I made a million mistakes but I’m successful in spite of ‘em.” Tyler’s achievements at such a young age, which include a record label, fashion label and now a magazine and radio show, should be an inspiration to creatives everywhere, regardless of background and interests. Tyler doesn’t care what you think. He doesn’t care what I think. His music is a reflection of this and his apathy for other’s expectations is what allows him to be unique and original. On Twitter, Tyler has said that his albums reflect his state of mind while recording. If there is anything the youth should gain from Tyler, The Creator’s music, it is the message permeating the overarching emotional journey from Bastard to Cherry Bomb. The gradual improvement in Tyler’s outlook emphasizes that when faced with adversity, whether emotional or otherwise, perseverance and commitment to your passions will eventually become the feathers that propel you from the abyss, because, “You’re a bird, you’re supposed to fly away. Don’t let your wings go to waste.”