The Playlist

St. Vincent’s Synth-Funk ‘Pain,’ and 9 More New Songs

Hear tracks by Drake featuring Rick Ross, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, Bebe Rexha and others.

St. Vincent previews a new album called “Daddy’s Home” with the squelchy “Pay Your Way in Pain.”
Credit…Zackery Michael
  • March 5, 2021

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.

St. Vincent (Annie Clark) piles artifice on artifice on the way to a digitized primal scream in “Pay Your Way in Pain,” from a new album, “Daddy’s Home,” due in May. A throwaway music-hall piano introduction cuts to fat, squelchy 1980s synthesizer tones as she sings, archly but with mounting desperation, about rejection on every front, surrounded by multiples of her own voice processed into gasping, tittering onlookers; they join her to harmonize on the words “pain” and “shame” like decades-later echoes of David Bowie singing “Fame.” It’s droll until it isn’t; at the end, she proclaims, “I want to be loved,” and that last word stretches for a rasping, breathless 17 seconds. JON PARELES

Pros recognize pros. It’s telling that Charli XCX (the Id Girl of hyperpop) and Matty Healy of the 1975 (the most self-conscious yet ambitious arena-rock deconstructionist) both chose to collaborate with No Rome, a Filipino songwriter and producer who melds introversion, melody and electronics. The song ends up on Charli XCX’s turf: teasing, danceable and unstable, flaunting its pitch-shifting and digital edits. But it’s also thoroughly danceable and flirtatious: full of mindless motion. PARELES

Both Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars are diligent students of R&B history, especially devoted to its most opulent, funky and idealistic moments in the pre-disco 1970s. So it’s no surprise that their collaboration — Silk Sonic, though they also keep their own search-optimizing names in the billing — harks back, in “Leave the Door Open,” to the close-harmony seductions of groups like the Spinners, the Manhattans and the Stylistics; yes, kids, that’s an analog tape deck rolling as the video begins. The descending guitar glissando, the glockenspiel, the showy key changes, the contrast of grainy lead and perfectionist backup vocals, the detailed erotic invitation of the lyrics — “Come on over, I’ll adore you” — are all good things to revive. PARELES

What’s a palate cleanse for Drake is, for most rappers, out of the reach of their ambition and skill. In between albums, he tosses off songs that focus on his tougher side, leaning in to wordy verses largely bereft of melody. “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” — from his new “Scary Hours 2” EP — is a relaxed classic of the form, full of sly rhymes delivered so offhandedly it almost obscures the technical audacity within. The song features frequent mischief buddy Rick Ross, but promptly dispenses with him so that Drake can embark upon a four-plus minute verse touching on his notary public, some wild times in Vegas, smooth co-parenting (“I send her the child support/She send me the heart emoji”), the deadening effects of too much fame, the overpriced accouterments of too much fame and the usual confession/braggadocio nexus that even after more than a decade still stings: “To be real, man, I never did one crime/But none of my brothers can caption that line.” JON CARAMANICA

New year, nü-disco. Bebe Rexha turns whispering diva on “Sacrifice” — “Wanna be the air every time you breathe/running through your veins, and the spaces in between” — on an elegant track that includes the faintest nod to Real McCoy’s mid-90s ultra-bouncey “Another Night.” CARAMANICA

Tank pours out his regrets and begs for reconciliation on “Can’t Let It Show”: “I should’ve been everything I promised,” he croons in an aching tenor, going on to confess, “I’ve been stupid, heartless/I’ve been useless, thoughtless.” Then, in falsetto, he answers with what’s supposed to be her side of the dialogue: a repurposed Kate Bush chorus — “I should be crying but I just can’t let it show” — that makes him think he still stands a chance because she cares. Or is it all just his wishful thinking? PARELES

An awkward night out in a thankless marriage between a partner barely trying to save face and a partner trying very hard to do just enough so that observers might not notice how poorly suited the pair are to each other. CARAMANICA

Perhaps Finneas is a little frustrated — though well-compensated — while he keeps things quiet (but deeply ominous) when he collaborates with his sister, Billie Eilish, whose vocals tend to be melodic whispers. He goes full-scale, orchestral Wall of Sound, appropriately, to share big crescendos with Ashe on “Til Forever Falls Apart,” which starts as a vow of fidelity but turns into visions of California apocalypse. PARELES

When the prolific Cuban pianist and composer Omar Sosa toured East Africa with his trio in 2009, he brought along a small recording setup, and captured himself playing with leading musicians in every country he visited. Afterward, he overdubbed additional layers of percussion and piano atop the original recordings; now he has finally released these recordings as an album, “An East African Journey.” In Zambia, Sosa met Abel Ntalasha, a multi-instrumentalist and dancer, whose song “Shibinda” tells of a young man growing into adulthood and preparing to marry. Ntalasha plays the kalumbu, a single-stringed instrument, and sings the song’s central incantation. Sosa gets involved gradually, contributing vocals and percussion and rhythmic spritzes high up on the piano. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

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To make his new album, “Facets,” the saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh brought three leading jazz pianists into the studio. But before they arrived, he retuned many of the piano’s strings to reflect an old Persian technique of finding notes in the spaces between the tempered scale. On “Facet Sorey,” Modirzadeh doesn’t play a lick of sax; instead, the multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey handles the piece alone, conjuring up conflicted clouds of harmony, letting the piano’s slightly sour tuning create a feeling of rich uncertainty. RUSSONELLO