The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s Bouncy Plea, and 14 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 [email protected] and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.

The Kid Laroi featuring Justin Bieber, ‘Stay’

Bracingly effective, hyper-slick new wave/pop-punk hybridization from the Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber, “Stay” is about expecting more from a partner than you’re capable of giving. They both sound aptly desperate and defensive, a familiar approach from Laroi and a sneaky stretch from Bieber, who still injects some falsetto tenderness into his icy pleas. “Stay” is a more effective pairing than the two had on “Unstable,” from Bieber’s most recent album, on which he sounded as if he was jogging while Laroi sprinted. JON CARAMANICA

The Kondi Band featuring Mariama, ‘She Doesn’t Love You’

Kondi Band is an electronic concoction rooted in Sierra Leone. The kondi is a 15-pronged thumb piano played by the Sierra Leonean musician Sorie Kondi, with production by DJ Chief Boima (an American whose family is from Sierra Leone), the English producer Will LV (a.k.a. Will Horrocks) and, on this song, the voice of a songwriter from Sierra Leone, Mariama Jalloh. The song is propelled by multiple layers of Sorie Kondi’s plinking thumb-piano riffs and grainy call-and-response vocals in Krio (Sierra Leonean Creole); midway through, Mariama airily delivers a reminder about consent: “It’s her mind, her body, her rules/If she doesn’t love you there’s nothing you can do.” JON PARELES

Little Simz, ‘I Love You, I Hate You’

The Nigerian-English rapper Lil Simz keeps her voice calm and steely as she grapples with her relationship with her biological father, who’s “in my DNA” — she’s seen Polaroid photos — but whom she barely knows: “Is you a sperm donor or a dad to me?” The emotions that buffet her are in the track, produced by Inflo, with orchestral and choral swells, a sputtering funk beat and a male voice singing the title. She’s wrestling with her own feelings, trying to empathize and reaching for forgiveness; it’s complicated. PARELES

BLK presents Juvenile, Mannie Fresh and Mia X, ‘Vax That Thang Up’

Ah yes, you remember this classic, from the album “400 Degreez (Is What Your Temperature Will Be if You Get Covid-19 So Please Get Vaccinated).” CARAMANICA

Zuchu, ‘Nyumba Ndogo’

What will happen when African musicians latch onto hyperpop? “Nyumba Ndogo,” from the Tanzanian singer and songwriter Zuchu, hints at the possibilities. It’s thin, speedy, synthetic, Auto-Tuned — and irresistible. PARELES

mazie, ‘Dumb Dumb’

The songwriter who lowercases herself as mazie folds multiple levels of ironic self-consciousness into her songs. She sings in a little-girl voice, and she starts “Dumb Dumb” with the sounds of kiddie instruments — ukulele, toy piano — before surreally stacking up keyboards, voices and harps and declaring, “Everyone is dumb, la la la la la la la.” It’s a song about misinformation, gullibility and incredulity; she wrote it the day after the insurrection at the Capitol. PARELES

Courtney Barnett, ‘Rae Street’

Courtney Barnett previews an album due in November — “Things Take Time, Take Time” — with another of her deadpan, steady-strummed songs that find large lessons in mundane observations. In “Rae Street” she chronicles her neighbors: parents, children, repair people and dogs, having an ordinary day. Behind the normalcy, there’s a wary undercurrent: “Time is money, and money is no man’s friend,” she sings, and, later, “You seem so stable, but you’re just hanging on.” Calm doesn’t mean contentment. PARELES

Angel Olsen, ‘Gloria’

There’s no point in a cover version that doesn’t transform the original song. Angel Olsen does just that with her version of the Laura Branigan hit “Gloria,” the first track from her coming album of 1980s songs, “Aisles.” While Branigan’s 1982 “Gloria” had pumping synthesizers and a perky vocal, Olsen paid attention to the lyrics. It’s a song about a desolate, lonely woman on the verge of a breakdown, or perhaps already having one: “Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?” Olsen’s version is blearily slow, thickened with distorted keyboard chords and grunting cellos; this “Gloria” is mired, not triumphal. PARELES

gglum. ‘Glad Ur Gone’

Clouds of vocal harmonies float prettily; a beat bustles; keyboards throb in warm major chords. None of it quite conceals the rancor of “Glad Ur Gone,” as gglum — the songwriter Ella Smoker — sings about how clingy and manipulative an ex can be. PARELES

J.D. Allen, ‘Mother’
Jon Irabagon, ‘KC Blues’

J.D. Allen and Jon Irabagon, two standard-bearing tenor saxophonists, have new solo-sax albums that were forged in the solitude of lockdown. Irabagon, 41, spent much of 2020 living with extended family in South Dakota, and he often slipped off to the outskirts of Black Hills National Forest, where he spent hours revisiting the Charlie Parker songbook en plein-air with a recorder on. He’s released those recordings as “Bird With Streams” (yes, it’s a pun). Playful as ever but also luxuriously patient, his take on “K.C. Blues” is a feast of smeared tones and little open spaces. Allen, 48, went into a Cincinnati studio to capture the 13 tracks on “Queen City,” but he kept things spare, treating the process as an extension of the soul-searching he’d done in the early days of lockdown. “Mother,” an Allen original, starts with a three-note pattern that spins almost into a drone before he leaps off into free improvisation, zagging and curling and, later, painfully scraping his notes, as if to pry them open. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Nathy Peluso, ‘Mafiosa’

The Argentine songwriter Nathy Peluso is ready to seize power as a woman in “Mafiosa,” vowing (in Spanish), “May bad men fear me.” She’s backed by a sinewy, old-school salsa groove with horn-section muscle: playful and teasing, but not to be crossed. PARELES

Maluma, ‘Sobrio’

A gentle song befitting Maluma’s gentle voice, “Sobrio” is an unhurried and lovely tale of a man only able to declare his heart after a few drinks. There’s nothing anguished about Maluma’s meanderings, though — rather, the slackness of the rhythm, and of his lightly slurry anguish, makes for a compellingly smooth confessional. CARAMANICA

Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine, ‘Reach Out’

Sufjan Stevens has been mightily productive during the pandemic year, with songs, instrumentals and now a collaboration. Acoustic picking defines “Reach Out,” from the album “A Beginner’s Mind” by Stevens and the songwriter Angelo De Augustine, which is due in September — and based, they say, on watching movies. Fans of Stevens’s largely acoustic album “Carrie and Lowell” will appreciate “Reach Out,” which doesn’t hide the squeaks of hands moving up strings. In close harmony, they sing about memory and healing, insisting, “the pain restores you.” PARELES

Samara Joy, ‘It Only Happens Once’

At 21, the vocalist Samara Joy has been approaching the jazz spotlight since she won the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. The close precision and frothy power of her voice stand out immediately, and on her self-titled debut album, so does the depth of her comfort within the jazz tradition. “It Only Happens Once” is a rarely played tune, best known for Nat King Cole’s dreamy 1943 version, but she tucks right into it, as if she’s been singing the song her whole life. RUSSONELLO

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