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Jon Pareles, Isabelia Herrera, Giovanni Russonello and
Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos. Just want the music? Listen to the Playlist on Spotify here (or find our profile: nytimes). Like what you hear? Let us know at [email protected] and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.
Oh, the fragile male ego. “Don’t call me baby when you did me so wrong” is one of the milder jibes hurled at a straying girlfriend by Post Malone as he trades verses with the Weeknd. She may want to get together, but the guys have already moved on, with “one coming over and one right now.” A very 1980s track — springy synthesizer bass line and hook, programmed beat — carries pure, focused resentment about how much damage she’s done to “my feelings.” JON PARELES
“What you want/I ain’t got it,” Charli XCX snarls over a blast of ’80s pop gloss. The British pop provocateur unleashes her ultrapop persona, brooding over cinematic new wave synths. “New Shapes” leverages the kind of vulnerability and insecurity that defines some of Charli’s best work, thanks to pointed verses from her guests (and previous collaborators), the sad girl supergroup of Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek. The whole thing doesn’t quite measure up to the irresistible drama of the beloved 2019 anthem “Gone,” but hey, the girls will take it. ISABELIA HERRERA
The polymathic musician and producer Terrace Martin is widely known for helping Kendrick Lamar sculpt his jazz-tinted masterpiece, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but he’d been an asset in Los Angeles studios since the mid-2000s, when he first fell in with Snoop Dogg. The title track from Martin’s new solo album, “Drones,” is something like a reading of his résumé, with features from four resounding names in L.A. hip-hop. The dapper, G-funk beat is a braid of plunky guitar, pulsing electric piano and 808 percussion; the lyrics — sung partly by Lamar, in a sly shrug — describe a booty-call relationship that’s exactly as shallow as it looks to the outside world, and maybe not much more satisfying. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
Following her eclectic album “The Second Line,” released earlier this year, Dawn Richard’s new track for the Adult Swim Singles series is all bass-heavy, aqueous funk. Her voice shape-shifts throughout “Loose Your Mind,” so at times it almost feels like she’s duetting with different sides of her prismatic personality. “Ain’t really nothing wrong when the feeling is golden,” she spits at the beginning, before a melodic chorus of Dawns responds in agreement: “Solid gold.” LINDSAY ZOLADZ
Few songs defined the hypermaximalist sound of the 2010s as succinctly as the electronic duo TNGHT’s “Higher Ground,” that brassy, ever-escalating EDM anthem that was sampled by Kanye West on “Yeezus” and — I will die on this hill — has to be the inspiration behind the “Arby’s: We Have the Meats” jingle, right? After a long hiatus, the producers Hudson Mohawke and Lunice reunited as TNGHT in 2019, and have now released a new track called “Tums,” which Lunice says was created according to the duo’s guiding principles: “Keep it really fun. Dumb. Hard-hitting. Don’t overwork it.” Sampled giggles and slide whistles keep things fizzy on the surface, while the track’s booming low end guides it through a series of roller-coaster drops. “Tums” might not be as innovative as the pair’s earlier work, but maybe that’s because everything else has been sounding like them for years now. ZOLADZ
With “Woman,” the Nigerian singer and songwriter Simi offers a tribute, corrective and update to Fela Anikalupo Kuti, who invented Afrobeat in the 1970s in songs including “Lady,” which scoffed at European feminism. “Woman” mixes current electronic Afrobeats with the funk of Kuti’s 1970s Afrobeat, while quoting Kuti songs between her own assertions about women’s strengths: “She won’t pay attention to the intimidation.” The rhetoric is tricky; the beat is unstoppable. PARELES
The standard elements of Gregory Porter’s style run through “Love Runs Deeper”: lyrics that linger on the difficulties — and the bounties — of care and connection; twinkling orchestral strings; a gradual build that allows his burly, baritone voice to unfurl itself with just enough tension and release. But this is more of a direct-delivery power ballad than most of Porter’s tunes: The melody wouldn’t feel out of place on an Adele or Halsey record, and it’s liable to get lodged in your head quickly and stay there. With supporting vocals from the young British singer Cherise, “Love Runs Deeper” serves as the soundtrack to Disney’s annual holiday-season advertisement, which this year is a short film (full of self-referential touches, like a Buzz Lightyear cameo) titled “The Stepdad.” The song is also included on a new Porter compilation, “Still Rising,” which features a mix of his greatest hits, B-sides and new songs. RUSSONELLO
“My 40s are kicking my ass, and handing them to me in a margarita glass” — how’s that for an opening line? Something about the gentle country strum and laid-back croon of Jenny Lewis’s new stand-alone single recalls her old band Rilo Kiley’s great 2004 album “More Adventurous,” though her perspective has been updated with the unglamorous realities and hard-won wisdom of middle age. After chronicling the wreckage of a few recent relationships, the eternally witty Lewis arrives at a mantra of tough-talking self-reliance: “If you feel like giving up, shut up — get a puppy and a truck.” ZOLADZ
Lydia Lund spends much of the Washington indie-rock band Chastity Belt’s new song “Fear” hollering until she’s hoarse, “It’s just the fear, it’s just the fear.” Apparently she recorded the vocals while she was staying at her parents’ house, and her commitment to the song was so intense that her mother knocked on the door to make sure she was OK because she “thought I was doing some kind of primal scream therapy,” Lund said. “And I guess in a way I am.” Lund’s impassioned delivery and the song’s soaring guitars turn “Fear” into a cathartic response to overwhelming anxiety, and provide a powerful soundtrack for slaying that dreaded mind killer. ZOLADZ
“Kid A Mnesia,” the new, expansive compilation of Radiohead songs from their paradigm-shifting sessions in 1999-2000, has unearthed studio versions of songs that the band performed but never committed to albums, notably “Follow Me Around,” a guitar-strumming crescendo of paranoia. The video, apparently made with a small but persistent camera drone, nicely multiplies the dread. PARELES
Lorde whisper-sings through the first half of “Hold No Grudge,” a bonus track added to her album “Solar Power.” It’s a memory of an early love that ended without a resolution; later messages went unanswered. Midway through, she’s still bouncing syllables off guitar strums, but the sound of the song comes into focus and Lorde realizes, “We both might have done some growing up.” She’s ready to let the passage of time offer solace. PARELES
Omar Apollo is known for combining cool funk grooves, slick charisma and sensual falsettos. But on “Bad Life,” his new single featuring Kali Uchis, the young singer-songwriter peels back the layers and puts his armor aside for a bare-bones exercise in vulnerability. “Bad Life” revels in contempt, burning slow and low alongside a soft-focus electric guitar. Apollo opens the track with a heart-piercer: “You give me nothing/But I still change it to something.” Ouch. The singer’s voice curls into anguished melismas, and when the orchestral strings soar in halfway through, the resentment cuts crystal clear. HERRERA
Alt-J created a serene and almost unbearably mournful song with “Get Better,” a fingerpicked chronicle about the profundity and mundanity of a loved one’s slow death like Paul Simon’s “Darling Lorraine” and Mount Eerie’s “Real Death.” It’s profoundly self-conscious, citing the similarly acoustic arrangement of Elliott Smith; it offers personal moments, stray events, reminiscences, belongings, thoughts of “front line workers,” admissions that “I still pretend you’re only out of sight in another room/smiling at your phone.” The loss is only personal, but shattering. PARELES
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