The Playlist: Ariana Grande Shows Her Heart, and 8 More New Songs

The Playlist: Ariana Grande Shows Her Heart, and 8 More New Songs


Hear tracks from Cat Power, Janet Jackson, Doja Cat and others.

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Ariana Grande’s new album is “Sweetener.”CreditKevin Mazur/Getty Images For Amazon

Sprinkled amid all the off-kilter Pharrell funk on Ariana Grande’s new album, “Sweetener,” is “breathin,” an ambitious and controlled vocal performance over aerated disco-EDM production. The mood is dreamlike and sultry, but the words veer toward the desperate. It’s a reminder that underneath Ms. Grande’s veneer of calm and certainty pulses doubt, anxiety and heart. JON CARAMANICA

Janet Jackson featuring Daddy Yankee, ‘Made for Now’

The most obvious forebear for this Janet Jackson comeback single is her 2001 hit “All for You,” which was similarly breezy, and asked just as little of her voice. But even at her most intense, she has always had a sweet, lithe vocal presence that’s more about shapes than peaks and valleys. “Made for Now,” while simple, is charming and — especially for a needless collaboration with the vintage reggaeton star Daddy Yankee — reassuringly guileless. Ms. Jackson floats her own way, regardless of which direction the rest of the world is floating in. CARAMANICA

Doja Cat, ‘Mooo!’

Remember when the internet was weird? Those were fun times. The video for “Mooo!” recalls a more innocent moment — say, a decade ago (or less) when tightly edited absurdity was frequently rewarded with virality and a sort of instant fame that somehow managed to not be toxic. Doja Cat’s raps are amusing, and this video — lo-fi, hilariously salacious — is sharply executed. But what she’s really captured is the poetry and elegance of low stakes. It’s a thrilling simulation of what it meant to be yourself, and not know if anyone would care to watch. CARAMANICA

Cat Power featuring Lana Del Rey, ‘Woman’

In October, Cat Power will release “Wanderer,” her first album in six years, and the first single is “Woman,” an arid march and defiant stand. Cat Power (the musician Chan Marshall) has been finding ways to disappear for at least two decades, and her tug-of-war between reluctance and insistence is as alive as ever here. There’s also a pointed dance between Ms. Power and her background singer, who happens to be Lana Del Rey, a performer who owes quite a bit to the reticence that has long been central to Cat Power’s power, and who also knows a lot about hiding in plain sight. CARAMANICA

A sprightly and weird off-cycle song by Kanye West, released by DJ Clark Kent via a WeTransfer download posted on Twitter, “XTCY” is Mr. West at his most abstract, and also his funniest. The beat is a spare-parts masterwork — erotic exhales, what sound like detuned guitars, no-wave dissonance. And the verses are terse, lewd and uproarious: “You got sick thoughts? I got more of ’em/You got a sister-in-law you would smash? I got four of ’em.” CARAMANICA

Luciana Souza, ‘These Things’

Little in the accomplished career of Luciana Souza, a flexible and transfixing Brazilian jazz singer, feels as charged with purpose as “The Book of Longing.” The album, due later this month, features poems by Leonard Cohen and Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as Ms. Souza herself — all of which she set to music. Accompanied by just Scott Colley’s bass, Chico Pinheiro’s toasty guitar and her own occasional hand percussion, Ms. Souza strikes an interrogative stance on “These Things,” a lulling original. “These are the words we’ve come to call our gods,” she sings, wondering after the power and limits of language. “These are the books we read.” GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Ile, ‘Odio’

“Let hatred die of hunger because nobody feeds it,” sings Ile (Ileana Cabra, who sang with her two brothers’ group, Calle 13) in “Odio” (“Hatred”), which grew out of her enraged reaction to toxic social media. The melody summons traditional roots; the beat starts out simple and stark, gathers a triple-time Afro-Caribbean momentum and works up to crashing impact, mixing percussion and programming, as guitars, bird calls and chirping electronics all merge amid disorienting echoes. The video clip adds a distinctly different layer of meaning; it recreates the Cerro Maravilla Incident, the police killing in 1978 of two Puerto Rican independence activists, which was followed by a cover-up that roiled the island for years. JON PARELES

Project Youngin x Einer Bankz, ‘Thug Souljas Acoustic’

The internet and social media have facilitated a certain kind of hip-hop gentrifier — typically white — who remakes trap hits into folk songs, or cello covers, or some other reimagining that turns on its unlikeliness more than its effectiveness. The current beneficiary of this evergreen phenomenon is Einer Bankz, who has parlayed his ukulele skills into off-the-cuff collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Trippie Redd and YG, among others. Often, the results are charming, essentially harmless, mildly distracting, a visual and sonic goof. But something intriguing happens when he partners with the young Florida rapper Project Youngin on an acoustic rendition of his recent single “Thug Souljas.”

The original is poignant and effective, but maybe a tad too brisk and drowning in digital effects that obscure the song’s heart-rending core. (Project Youngin got some notoriety online for faking his own shooting on Instagram Live as part of the video. He later apologized.) But something happens when the song gets stripped down. In the Einer Bankz version, Project Youngin’s singing is roughly tender. The song’s mournfulness takes center stage. Einer Bankz isn’t doing much musically, but he’s created the space for Project Youngin to lean into his emotion. After he runs down a list of friends who’ve died, he sings, “I wish that list would be finished,” and his voice cracks just so. It’s chilling. CARAMANICA

Miles Okazaki, ‘Evidence’

In the middle of the week, with no advance notice, Mr. Okazaki released “Work” — a striking, six-volume collection featuring solo-guitar renditions of every song Thelonious Monk is known to have written. That’s 70 in all. The first thing that throws you off here is how Mr. Okazaki’s dark, glutinous, often palm-muted guitar sound alters Monk’s compositional stamp, which was bright and sharp around the edges, and forthrightly rhythmic. Then you start to notice the widely varied strategies Mr. Okazaki is using. Sometimes he plays a whole theme in single notes. Elsewhere he dashes into outlandish improvisations before even stating the melody. On “Evidence,” he fits the song’s jagged displacements into a chucking, Steve Coleman-influenced groove. RUSSONELLO

Jon Pareles has been The Times’s chief pop music critic since 1988. A musician, he has played in rock bands, jazz groups and classical ensembles. He majored in music at Yale University. @JonPareles

Jon Caramanica is a pop music critic for The Times and the host of the Popcast. He also writes the men’s Critical Shopper column for Styles. He previously worked for Vibe magazine, and has written for the Village Voice, Spin, XXL and more. @joncaramanica





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