The Playlist: Ariana, Miley and Lana Take on ‘Angels,’ and 11 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 and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage

Had a collaboration of this nature taken place, say, a decade or more ago, when the mega-million-dollar movie franchise was more powerful than the three mega-famous pop stars recruited for its soundtrack, the result likely would have been a homogeneous mess, with the singers’ signature moves all flattened out in service of a grueling and icky movie-driven theme. But the internet has tilted the power balance in favor of the musicians with the hundreds-of-millions-strong cult following. And so “Don’t Call Me Angel” is a deconstructed theme song. In spirit, it’s a feminist renunciation of the very conceit of women as angels. Miley Cyrus — who’s channeling Tyler Durden in the video — sings with ferocity and verve: “I make my money and I write the checks/so say my name with a little respect.” Ariana Grande delivers the chorus with signature sweetly floating vocals. And when Lana Del Rey arrives halfway through, the song shifts to accommodate her: She’s moving at roughly half speed, and her affect is one of rolled eyes and exasperation. So much for Charlie. JON CARAMANICA

“I see you but you don’t see me,” Angelica Garcia sings in “Jícama,” adding, “Like you, I was born in this country.” Garcia flaunts her “cultura Chicana” with a melody as insistent as a playground chant, an exultantly leaping lead vocal and an arrangement that gathers like a sudden block party, from bare-bones electronics at the beginning to a polyrhythmic pileup of handclaps, bass riffs, voices and horns. JON PARELES

“Eye in the Wall” is a throbbing, swirling, disorienting, mesmerizing nine-minute excursion from “The Sun Still Burns Here,” a music-and-dance collaboration by Perfume Genius (Mike Hadreas) and the choreographer Kate Wallich. There’s more than a hint of David Bowie’s “Blackstar” in the music’s hazy layers, modal inflections and world-jazz propulsion, with busy hand and electronic percussion and a springy bass vamp. Hadreas’s voice teases at the edge of intelligibility, intoning, “Give it up” and whisper-chanting what may be “loving” or “nothing.” The track constantly threatens to dissolve, and eventually it does, trading forward motion for pulsations, clouds, impulses and echoes. PARELES

The Lumineers were never exactly as lighthearted as the surface of their music may have suggested. They strip away most of their smiley, folky, foot-stomping camouflage for their third album, “III,” which arrives on Friday accompanied by a full-length (44-minute) film. The arrangements are acoustic and austere — a guitar, a piano, sometimes a violin, sometimes some drums — in songs that chronicle how addiction affects three generations of a family. “Jimmy Sparks” is one of its bleak climaxes, rising to a desolate refrain: “It was 3 a.m.” PARELES

It took Hurricane Dorian to unearth “Fascinating,” a ballad R.E.M. recorded while making its 2004 album “Reveal” at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas; the band has released it to benefit Bahamas recovery efforts by Mercy Corps. The narrator is at a party where “I just don’t fit in”; he’s longing for a conversation or just a glance. As his yearning deepens, electronics, feedback and a chamber orchestra swell around him as some kind of consolation. PARELES

Combine the torchy, girl-group power of the Ronettes with the heartsick, string-laden Björk of “Vulnicura,” plus a little bit of Bollywood musical swoon and a dollop of “I Am the Walrus,” for an idea of what Angel Olsen reaches for on “Lark” from her album “All Mirrors,” due October 4. The six minutes of “Lark” move through regrets, fury, nostalgia, second thoughts, sensual memories, recriminations, solitude — an operatic catharsis. PARELES

By the 1970s, even in the deepest reaches of the Bible Belt, gospel groups were singing more than hymns, and they were testifying on topics outside scripture. Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin had set the pace; the pseudo-sacrilege of new jack swing was just around the corner. “The Time for Peace Is Now” is a new collection of rare and unearthed recordings from southern gospel groups from that decade, singing with spiritual fervor about secular concerns. And it’s laden with gems. Maybe the most persuasive song is also the simplest: “Condition the World Is In,” a (more or less) two-chord lament by the Religious Souls, four men and three women, who sometimes recorded as the Kingcannon Family. Without crescendo or insistence, the chittering background vocals build to a swirling passion, as if sending sage smoke into the air, clouding and purifying it at the same time. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Charli XCX fashioned herself as a creature of this moment, when physical and online experiences coalesce and people curate an impeccably poised social-media persona (slash brand) while coping with the messy ups and downs of life offline. Her idea of 21st-century pop fuses giddily artificial productions by A.G. Cook with sturdy pop hooks and lyrics that veer from glamorous-life braggadocio to (calculated) glimmers of vulnerability. Her third official studio album, “Charli,” reshuffles and slightly restrains the ingredients of her dizzying 2017 “Pop 2” (which was billed as a mixtape), with Cook as executive producer and diverse collaborators. “Silver Cross,” written by XCX and Cook, is an old-fashioned pop vow of devotion set to insistent, mutating, multilayered synthesizers and vocal effects, a barrage of digital diversion. PARELES

High-velocity last-days-of-summer breeze featuring a Colombian cumbia-derived rhythm for J Balvin’s part, and a Dominican dembow beat for El Alfa. Urgent without being overbearing. CARAMANICA

A Boogie made his name with a cracked voice and sweet melodies. They’ve served him well. But perhaps fame and success have corroded him, because on the tart “Mood Swings,” he dispenses with the sweetness altogether. The lyrics are paranoid, and the verses are delivered in coughs and slaps, as if he can no longer bear to hold a tune. CARAMANICA

The raspy-voiced Algerian-French songwriter Rachid Taha, who grew up in France, used musical fusions as cross-cultural lessons and provocations, insisting on his rights to meld African, Middle Eastern, European, rock and electronic music. When he died in 2018, at 59, he had been working on an album, and its title song, “Je Suis Africain” (“I Am African”), jauntily reaffirms his claims, easily melding Congolese-style guitars, West African talking drums and kora, Middle Eastern oud and violin, a horn section and considerably more. He also name-checks a list of “Africain” heroes including Patrice Lumumba, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Jacques Derrida, Malcolm X and Jimi Hendrix. PARELES

Among jazz cognoscenti, Ahmad Jamal’s importance is usually taken as a given, but rarely celebrated as it should be. Partly that’s because of how unflashy and seemingly logical his style is. Whether alone or with a group, he often establishes a low groove, tracing an oval-shaped melody that also becomes the piece’s core rhythmic pattern, giving you comfort, simplicity, African rhythm and human energy, all in a single repeated gesture. In his version of “Poinciana,” from 1958, Jamal (now a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master) used that grooving formula and came away with a smash hit. On “Ballades,” a new album of mostly solo-piano tracks, he returns to “Poinciana,” but holds the rhythmic sway at bay. This is a more diffuse rendition, full of liquid tumbles and cut angles; it’s a seminar in Jamal’s coolly resplendent harmonic language — as easy to mistake for decoration as a late Matisse, but really just as deep. RUSSONELLO

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