• The Star Staff

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion take control, and 10 more new songs


By The New York Times


Pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on notable new songs and videos.


Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion, ‘WAP’


An event record that transcends the event itself, the first collaboration between Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion is a meeting of the (dirty) minds. Riding on a sample of Frank Ski’s proto-Baltimore club classic “Whores in This House,” “WAP” luxuriates in raunch. In their verses, both Cardi and Megan are exuberant, sharp and extremely, extremely detailed. And the David LaChappelle-esque video matches the excess of the rhymes, including cameos from Normani, Rosalía and Kylie Jenner.


— JON CARAMANICA


Troye Sivan, ‘Rager Teenager!’


The latest single off “In a Dream,” the upcoming EP from 25-year-old Australian pop crooner Troye Sivan, is a sparse, sweetly yearning ode to days semirecently gone by. “Hey, my lil rager teenager, tryna figure it out,” he sings atop a gently warping synth track. But the mood evoked by the music video — low-concept but somehow arresting, anchored by Sivan’s ex-YouTuber charisma — rings particularly true right now: Sivan lounging by himself, looking bored in a dingy bathtub, wishing he were somewhere better lit and more densely populated. “I just wanna sing loud,” he pines. “I just wanna lose myself in a crowd.” Who can relate?


— LINDSAY ZOLADZ


645AR featuring FKA twigs, ‘Sum Bout U’


Finally, the trap surrealists and the art-soul eccentrics have come to a territory-sharing treaty. They’ve been moving toward each other for years now, and this chirp-off is perhaps their first proper collision. 645AR squeals about devotion, and FKA twigs coolly peeps back over an unerringly pretty 1990s-soul-esque arrangement that makes them sound like lovebirds lost in a reverie, not just wild experimenters landing a neat trick.


— JON CARAMANICA


Chika, ‘U Should’


Chika’s “U Should” is balmy and light, an adult-contemporary love song full of careful guitar and salutary horns that also happens to include some of her signature nimble deep-in-the-pocket rapping: “I’m in the market for somebody I can talk with/got pictures inside of lockets and care less about my pockets.”


— JON CARAMANICA


Jamila Woods, ‘Sula (Paperback)’


Each song on “Legacy! Legacy!,” Chicago singer-songwriter Jamila Woods’ excellent 2019 album, was named for an artist of color who had inspired Woods’ creative development: “Zora,” “Eartha,” “Baldwin.” On Aug. 5, the first anniversary of Toni Morrison’s death, Woods released “Sula (Paperback),” named for the first Morrison novel she ever read. (“It reminded me to embrace my tenderness, my sensitivities, my ways of being in my body,” Woods wrote in a statement.) The song itself is luminous, its quiet power emanating from guitarist Justin Canavan’s nimble arpeggios and Woods’ melodic incantation, “I’m better, I’m better, I’m better, I’m better.” Its beauty unfurls slowly, like a time-lapse glimpse of a blooming lily.


— LINDSAY ZOLADZ


Mary Chapin Carpenter, ‘Between the Dirt and the Stars’


Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded her new album, “The Dirt and the Stars,” live in the studio with her band, capturing pristine performances that mirror the pensive intimacy of her mature, weathered but still hopeful songs. “Years will pass before we learn what time denies to everyone,” she sings in the title song, contemplating memories and the enduring resonance of a song on the radio: “Wild, wild horses/Everything we’ll ever know is in the choruses.” The band takes over for the last three minutes, cresting and easing off, proving the power of music alone.


— JON PARELES


beabadoobee, ‘Sorry’


Filipino-born British musician Beatrice Laus, who records as beabadoobee, manages to find a fresh, earnest perspective on ’90s nostalgia, simply because — brace yourself — she was born in the year 2000. (Last year’s ode to the patron saint of ’90s slackerdom, “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus,” prompted him to declare, “we stan.”) “Sorry,” the second single from her forthcoming full-length debut, “Fake It Flowers,” begins as a brooding, string-assisted ballad that, midway through, cracks open into something more epic. “It hurts me,” Laus sings over her signature waves of guitar fuzz, “that you could be the one that deserved this even more.”


— LINDSAY ZOLADZ


Popcaan featuring Drake and PartyNextDoor, ‘Twist & Turn’


Jamaican Drake is back! Or had he ever left? He makes two appearances on dance hall star Popcaan’s new release, “Fixtape,” his second mixtape for Drake’s OVO Sound label. The slow, smeary “All I Need” finds Popcaan working in Drake’s brooding register; better still is the up-tempo “Twist & Turn,” which makes obvious the influence Popcaan has had on some of Drake’s later hits. “Listen, you’ve been missing since 2016,” Drake croons at the top of the track. Could he be talking about the fabled Popcaan verse that didn’t make the album cut of the “Views” song “Controlla”? Probably not, but I will pretend anyway.


— LINDSAY ZOLADZ


Immanuel Wilkins, ‘Ferguson — An American Tradition’


Anyone trying to tune in to the current moment in jazz could do a lot worse than starting with Immanuel Wilkins, an alto saxophonist whose playing is at once dazzlingly solid and perfectly lithe. “Omega,” the debut album by Wilkins and his quartet, arrives as one of the more anticipated jazz releases of this year, thanks to the quietly ubiquitous presence he has established on the New York scene, despite only being in his early 20s. (It also helps that Jason Moran, MacArthur-winning pianist, produced it.) As an improviser, Wilkins bores in constantly, interrogating his options, sounding his way toward a maximum emotional outcome. That’s especially clear on “Ferguson — An American Tradition,” a devastating lament of the country’s legacy of anti-Black violence, with a neatly stitched lead melody that feeds into a tone-curdling saxophone solo.


— GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO


David Virelles, ‘Cause and Effect’


There’s a spirit of wily misdirection guiding “Transformación del Arcoiris,” a short but spellbinding new album that Cuban-born pianist and composer David Virelles created during quarantine. Nominally, Virelles is joined by a percussion ensemble called Los Seres (“The Beings”), but in reality it’s all just him, doubling and tripling and quadrupling himself on hand drums, piano, analog synthesizer and sampler. Sometimes Virelles veers toward musique concrete: The instrumentals mingle with the sound of birds chirping, or a tape deck being loaded. Elsewhere, all you hear is the wraithlike swirl of a Juno-6 synth. Throughout, there is a feeling of lines evaporating — between musical performance and everyday life, between conceptualism and folklore, between togetherness and solitude.


— GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO


Spires That in the Sunset Rise, ‘Sax Solfa’


Drones aren’t always soothing. “Sax Solfa” is from “Psychic Oscillations,” the 12th album (due Oct. 9) by the duo Spires That in the Sunset Rise, who multiply themselves in the studio. The drone tones in “Sax Solfa” underlie saxophone lines and loops, darting and rippling keyboards and bursts of gibberish vocal syllables, surfacing like anxieties no meditation can dispel.


— JON PARELES

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