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.

Alessia Cara, ‘Apartment Song’

Alessia Cara writes deft, crafty, elegantly melodic songs. On her new album, “In the Meantime,” there’s a lot of post-breakup ambivalence, trying to balance loneliness and solitude against fractious relationships; most of the music leans retro, toward neo-soul, reggae and bossa nova. But the album’s final track, “Apartment Song,” finds the possibility of release, as Cara sings, “Got no lover/but the color of the sky tonight’s so nice I don’t mind.” Sheer musicality is her way forward: a thumping two-chord groove that hints at “Genius of Love,” carrying her into a blissful coda of her own wordless, a cappella harmonies. JON PARELES

J. Cole, ‘Heaven’s EP’

Soul excavation, elder edition. The new J. Cole song — which borrows the beat from Drake’s recent “Pipe Down” — grapples with familiar demons: Is he among this generation’s greatest? Should he be concerned if he is? Or if he’s perceived to be? He assesses himself with an almost cold, clear eye:

Maybe deep down, I’m afraid of my luminosity
So when you see me on red carpets, I’m moving awkwardly
Posing all nervous, afraid of the judgment
And the thought of showing too much of my day is repugnant

But Cole has traversed this territory enough to make it clear that the internal reckoning is where he derives his strength, not the answer to any of those questions. He raps patiently and calmly. In the video, he’s wearing Crocs (and not the cool ones). He seems plenty comfortable. JON CARAMANICA

Wiki featuring Navy Blue, ‘Can’t Do This Alone’

Soul excavation, junior edition. The lyrical conceit that unites the verses from the young New York rappers Wiki and Navy Blue (who also produced the dusty-loop gallop of a track) is unexpected and refreshing: “When I was born, my mama said I didn’t hurt,” Navy Blue raps, and Wiki echoes the sentiment a few moments later. It’s the humblest of brags, a statement of intention and connection to the earth itself. CARAMANICA

Coldplay and BTS, ‘My Universe’

Can K-pop and Max Martin carry Coldplay into the 2020s? It’s dubious. Everyone’s trying so hard in “My Universe,” concocted by a platoon of collaborators. The beat is booming and metronomic, under Coldplay’s cosmic reverb; BTS raps and sings in Korean and English while Chris Martin relies, yet again, on astronomy and physics metaphors, promising “You are my universe” and praising “the infinity inside your eyes.” The track is sleek, careful and joyless. PARELES

Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul, ‘Thank You’

Plinks, bursts of static and Charlotte Adigéry’s deadpan spoken words — “Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me this. This is a real eye-opener.” — arrive over a vintage electro thump that warps through assorted equalizations and mixes. It’s a deeply sardonic salvo that, in a better world, would annihilate mansplaining once and for all. PARELES

DJ Lag featuring Lady Du, ‘Lucifer’

A jagged escapade into the inferno, DJ Lag and Lady Du’s “Lucifer” commands you to listen in an augural mode. DJ Lag is the groundbreaking forefather of gqom, an electronic genre born in the townships of Durban, South Africa. Here, he is joined by Lady Du, a luminary of amapiano, a South African style of house that has mushroomed into the mainstream in recent years. On the leading single from Lag’s debut full-length, tenebrous synths, revving engines and ear-piercing sirens mesh into a prescient vision of South African electronic music’s thrilling future. ISABELIA HERRERA

Princess Nokia featuring Yung Baby Tate, ‘Boys Are From Mars’

Like a bold red lip, “Boys Are From Mars” is a sumptuous rush of confidence. Princess Nokia and Yung Baby Tate are expertly matched here, their unbothered, unhurried barbs bouncing off each other over the three-minute ride. The production layers simple hi-hats, guitar licks and Yung Baby Tate’s fluttering R&B melodies, the chorus hitting like a soul-crushing snub: “Can’t make me come, but you think you’re a genius,” they announce with a wink. HERRERA

YoungBoy Never Broke Again, ‘Toxic Punk’

YoungBoy Never Broke Again — who is currently in jail facing federal weapons charges — just released a new album, “Sincerely, Kentrell.” This is maybe its most scathed track, full of impassioned squeal-singing over wobbly, morbid guitar. CARAMANICA

Arturo O’Farrill, ‘The Deep’

Composing “Dreaming in Lions,” the title suite of his new album and Blue Note Records debut, the pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill took inspiration from the Malpaso Dance Company of Cuba, and from Ernest Hemingway. The novelist gives the suite its name (in “The Old Man and the Sea,” Hemingway’s Cuban protagonist often finds himself dreaming of lions at play on distant shores), and dancers undoubtedly had something to do with giving this music its propulsive sway. Working with his 10-piece Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, O’Farrill centers most of the suite’s tunes — like “The Deep” — around a combination of melodic and rhythmic repetition, crafting small phrases that he can alter and re-harmonize and build momentum around. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Theo Croker, ‘Soul Call || Vibrate’

The first full track on the trumpeter Theo Croker’s new album, “Blk2life || A Future Past,” is “Soul Call || Vibrate,” a sprawling, stutter-stepping original that works as a statement of millennial jazz identity. The influence of J Dilla and his jazz drummer followers — including Karriem Riggins, and especially Chris Dave — is written all over the draggy beat. A subtler debt is owed to Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, with his smoldering trumpet tone and arcing melodies. After “Soul Call || Vibrate,” Croker and his band show off the flexibility of that firm identity, with a different guest star (Ari Lennox, Wyclef Jean, Iman Omari) on most of the album’s tracks. RUSSONELLO

Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine, ‘You Give Death a Bad Name’

Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine took inspiration on their new album, “A Beginner’s Mind,” from the plots of films, and “You Give Death a Bad Name” is a zombie scenario: “What once was dead is coming for you.” It’s delivered not as a threat but as a meditation, with the songwriters’ gentle twin-like voices hovering amid undulating, intertwined guitars and piano, gathering otherworldly layers of instruments and vocals, while its lyrics — thoughts of death, contamination, American exceptionalism and mindless destruction — have implications well beyond movie entertainment. PARELES

Lotic, ‘Emergency’

The D.J. and producer Lotic sings “E-mer-gen-cy” as synthesizers stutter and climb, and bass tones toll. A four-note keyboard motif runs through most of “Emergency,” and it’s equal parts foundation and prod, in a track that retains suspense all the way to its last note. PARELES

FPA, ‘The Loved One’

At first only basic chords — acoustic guitar, then piano — accompany FPA (Frances Priya Anczarski) as she agonizes over someone she can only claim as “You are my something.” The backdrop expands, with sustained guitar, horns and circling piano arpeggios. But her need never decreases. PARELES

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