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.

Lana Del Rey, ‘Looking for America’

Written on Monday, teased with a snippet on Instagram that same day, and then released in full on Friday, Lana Del Rey’s “Looking for America” is a rapid-response protest song — following a slew of mass shootings — from an artist whose tortured relationship to an idealized America has always been central to her persona. “Pulled over to watch the children in the park/We used to only worry for them after dark,” she sings, lightly vibrating with anger. What makes this protest so striking is that Del Rey sings about the country’s fall from grace (“I’m still looking for my own version of America/One without the gun, where the flag can freely fly”) with a convincing wistfulness, the sort that jingoists think is all their own. JON CARAMANICA

Alessia Cara, ‘Rooting for You’

More of Alessia Cara’s voice unimpeded, please. “Rooting for You” is lilting and pleasant, a light vamp with some Huey Lewis-era digitized saxophone jammed in the middle. Cara has an exemplary voice, and she doesn’t have to push hard to extract meaning. “Now I see you’re having so much fun/with everyone/you had so much fun making fun of,” she sings almost tenderly, as the sarcasm drips off like grease. CARAMANICA

Megan Thee Stallion featuring Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla Sign, ‘Hot Girl Summer’

Meme first, song second is perhaps the wrong order. The pressure to make “Hot Girl Summer” — the new track from Megan Thee Stallion, following her coining and popularizing the titular phrase — a special event may have been too strong. Certainly she didn’t need Ty Dolla Sign (not by any metric a hot girl) singing about his own pleasure to begin the song. And while the team-up with Nicki Minaj is inspired — Megan is assertive and plain-spoken, Minaj is jubilant — the production is bizarrely downcast. It’s a missed opportunity, lacking the exuberance of the phrase, the sentiment, the meme and, ultimately, the summer. CARAMANICA

PJ Morton, ‘Kid Again’

“You don’t need to give up, that’s the beginning of the end,” PJ Morton sings, a chorus of falsetto harmonies flickering around him. “You just need to believe like a kid again.” Morton is a New Orleans-born virtuoso who plays in Maroon 5, and in his own work he runs the influences of Allen Toussaint and Stevie Wonder through a bevy of ideas from R&B’s more recent decades. All the while he’s leaning hard on his buttery, heartfelt singing voice and masterful studio chops. On “Kid Again,” with a repetitive chord progression wrapping its arms around him, he insists on idealism and innocence, things that feel like precious commodities today: “You don’t need to grow up/You just need to believe like a kid again.” GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Chastity Belt, ‘Elena’

Lydia Lund and Julia Shapiro’s vocals wind around each other, buffer each other, underscore each other as they sing about a boyfriend who was hardly worth the trouble: “His only intrigue was the lack of him/Fill in the blanks with what you see fit.” The Seattle band’s new self-titled album is due in September. CARYN GANZ

Bas featuring Ari Lennox and Kiddominant, ‘Amnesia’

An unexpectedly seamless blend of euphoric Afrobeats, spacey R&B, melancholy post-Drake pop and straight-talk rapping. CARAMANICA

Stephen Mallinder, ‘Working (You Are)’

Stephen Mallinder of the English post-punk provocateurs Cabaret Voltaire will release his first solo album in 35 years, “Um Dada,” in October. Its leadoff track, the groovy curio “Working (You Are)” is a delightful companion to Marie Davidson’s pointier “Work It” from last year, introducing and then quickly retracting a series of ear-pleasing, familiar dance-music flourishes. In a statement announcing his return, Mallinder wrote of a “false nostalgia about the analogue past,” and concluded: “Let the machines talk to each other, let them dance … they lead, we follow.” GANZ

Grade 2, ‘Graveyard Island’

The English punks in Grade 2 come through with a super-catchy blast of rebellion rock with “Graveyard Island” from their Hellcat debut, produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong: “We see it now/it’s smoke and mirrors/our broken future couldn’t be any clearer.” GANZ

Mike Holober Gotham Jazz Orchestra, ‘Jumble’

At the outset of this 14-minute track, which opens the Gotham Jazz Orchestra’s fine new album, “Hiding Out,” a quietly suspenseful melodic theme is passed around between flutes and muted brass and cooled-down saxophones. A bass line creeps upward, starting to bring a Brazilian maracatu rhythm to life below. Mike Holober’s woven composition unfolds across various movements, kicking up dust as it goes along; toward the end, after a snaky, scorching guitar solo from Jesse Lewis, the whole band piles in together, and the rambunctious energy of a street parade — or just a lively city block, on any day of the year — spills forth. RUSSONELLO

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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