Beyoncé’s Surprise Juneteenth Anthem, and 12 More New Songs

Beyoncé’s Surprise Juneteenth Anthem, and 12 More New Songs

Beyoncé’s Surprise Juneteenth Anthem, and 12 More New Songs

Beyoncé’s Surprise Juneteenth Anthem, and 12 More New Songs

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 theplaylist@nytimes.com and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.

Beyoncé released “Black Parade” on Juneteenth, and it makes ambitious, far-reaching connections. The lyrics allude to black American achievement, culture and struggle, to African history and deities, to the power of women, to Beyoncé’s own success and to this month’s protests: “Rubber bullets bouncin’ off me/Made a picket sign off your picket fence/Take it as a warning.” The music pulls its own connections — to trap electronics, African songs, brass bands, gospel choirs — while Beyoncé flaunts new melody ideas in each verse. Voices gather around her, as her solo strut turns into a parade, or a more purposeful march: “Put your fists up in the air/Show black love,” she insists. JON PARELES

“Witness 4 the Prosecution (Version 1)” is the first previously unreleased song from what will be a vastly expanded reissue of Prince’s 1987 double album “Sign ‘o’ the Times,” due Sept. 25. It’s meaty funk-rock that sounds like it was recorded live: heavy on the backbeat, with sassy horns, thumb-popping bass, a gospelly backup choir (shouting “witness!”) and biting, distorted lead guitar, all stoking Prince as he testifies in a case of obsessive love. PARELES

Dinner Party is the alliance of the producers and musicians 9th Wonder, Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper. Phoelix joins them to sing “Freeze Tag,” about an all-too-common scenario: “They told me put my hands up behind my head/I think they got the wrong one,” he recounts in a high, gentle croon. “Then they told me if I move, they gon’ shoot me dead.” The music is quiet-storm R&B, complete with wind chimes, but as the chord progression circles and Phoelix sings the verse again and again, the fraught, frozen moment grows harrowing. PARELES

More than 25 years after Sun Ra’s death, the Afrofuturist pioneer’s ensemble continues to uphold his legacy in performances around the world, but it hasn’t released a studio album of new music in two decades. That will change later this year. The first single from the Arkestra’s forthcoming LP is “Seductive Fantasy,” a slow-moving, blood-pumping vamp that first appeared on the 1979 album “On Jupiter.” On the new version, the first sound you hear is the steady baritone saxophone line of Danny Ray Thompson, who played on the original too; he died just months after this newer recording was made. Across a quick four minutes, saxophones carry a simple melody, then join up with the reeds to make a messy gouache of harmonies while Marshall Allen’s alto saxophone nearly flies off the handle, squealing its way toward liftoff. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Some pleasant falsetto funk from Charlie Puth, a formalist with a lithe voice and a cloying demeanor. “Baby would you ever want to be my girlfriend?” he coos. “I don’t want to play no games/this is more than just a phase.” It’s effective, but perhaps not quite as catchy as his recent commercials for Subway. JON CARAMANICA

The Chicks — they have dropped Dixie in this moment of rejecting references to the Civil War-era South — are a long way from traditional country in “March March” from their coming album, “Gaslighter.” The initial beat is an electronic thump and blip, and the lyrics are topical and sometimes profane, praising the teenage activists who are demanding gun control and environmental action: “Watching our youth have to solve our problems/I’m standing with them, who’s coming with me?” sings Natalie Maines. Fiddle and banjo do arrive — and the tune has modal Appalachian echoes — but the song sends a message for right now. PARELES

Becca Mancari and her producer, Zac Farro from Paramore, build a Minimalist latticework of plucked strings, syncopated drums and pealing guitars — Stereolab gone to Nashville — as she sings “Are you a lonely boy?” in an upturned phrase like an encouraging smile. “Lonely Boy” is from her new album, “The Greatest Part”; she has said she wrote it about her dog, but its affection extends further. PARELES

“Take me to the ceremony/Make me holy matrimony,” Nadine Shah sings, layering on vocal harmonies as a guitar line buzzes around her like a persistent mosquito. It’s from her new album, “Kitchen Sink,” which is by turns sardonic and haunted. The verses of “Trad” are dryly skeptical about the institution of marriage, while that chorus makes it sound like an ominous, decisive ritual. PARELES

“Like So Much Desire” is the title song from an absorbing new EP by Flock of Dimes, Jenn Wasner’s solo project when she’s not fronting Wye Oak. It’s a gorgeous, lofty waltz, with synthesizers billowing around acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies, as Wasner sings an enigmatic reverie about “losing the old for the new, like so much desire.” PARELES

First came the first-wave protean SoundCloud rappers, followed by the auteur era of Lil Peep and his acolytes. This song, the fourth single from boyband — a producer affiliated with the Internet Money collective — perhaps suggests the third wave of the emo-rap revival is here. The sentiment is satisfyingly direct, if delivered a little awkwardly in places. But at the hook, boyband summons an image that’s tough and soft all at once: “Might tattoo your name so I can watch it fade away.” CARAMANICA

Wafting up from TikTok ubiquity, “Whats Poppin” has been a surprising breakthrough for the brash and buoyant rapper Jack Harlow, with a jiggly beat that leavens him just enough. Now, six months after the song’s initial release, it’s hovering in the Top 20 of the Hot 100 and has earned a posse-cut remix of heavyweights: DaBaby, pugnacious and indignant; Tory Lanez, thirsty and salacious; and Lil Wayne, as limber as he’s sounded in quite some time. CARAMANICA

Arca’s music has often been a barrage, summoning peak impact from sounds that are cranked up, maxed out and then suddenly truncated, as if they’ve hurtled directly into a brick wall. Her new album, “KiCk i,” mingles that attack with flashes of quasi-pop. The slapping, sputtering percussion in “Mequetrefe” (a derogatory Spanish slang term for certain men) is joined by a pretty instrumental line, and Arca’s vocal chants are patterned like song verses and choruses; still, impact prevails. PARELES

The flutist Nicole Mitchell and the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lisa E. Harris both use composition and sound to open up listeners to bold new ways of thinking about the world, and to encourage them to see past its present-day limitations. Both have long taken inspiration from the allegorical science-fiction writings of Octavia Butler; for their first collaboration, Mitchell and Harris wrote “EarthSeed,” an album-length suite of compositions, based on a Butlerian idea. “Purify Me With the Power to Transform” is the closing piece, a drift of voices and strings and ambient tones that sounds like it’s bidding goodbye to a broken present. RUSSONELLO


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