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The New York Times

Pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on notable new songs and videos.

• Juice WRLD and Benny Blanco, "Real ------." It has a year since the death of Juice WRLD, one of SoundCloud rap's most promising luminaries. In honor of what would have been the Chicago star's 22nd birthday, producer Benny Blanco released "Real ------," a previously unheard collaboration. Juice's music often luxuriates in gloom, but this track finds him at his most ecstatic: "Life's good so I'm living great," he proclaims, singing the earnest praises of vacations, healthy eating and leg day. But that unbridled joy makes the song even more poignant than his more straightforwardly sad material; he sounds so teeming with life he wouldn't get a chance to live.

-- LINDSAY ZOLADZ

• The Weeknd featuring Rosalía, "Blinding Lights (Remix)." Rosalía lends her electrifying presence to yet another sure-thing collaboration: a year-later remix of the Weeknd's a-ha-meets-Michael Jackson blockbuster, "Blinding Lights." By taking the first verse, in Spanish, she turns it into a lovers' duet, far more tense and romantic than the original. And it's the Weeknd's best revenge for being snubbed by the Grammys. But where is Rosalía's next album?

-- JON PARELES

• All Time Low featuring Demi Lovato and blackbear, "Monsters." With this theatrical pop-punk collaboration, Demi Lovato inches ever closer to the dreams of her teenage years, when she sang throaty Disney teen-pop and harbored a fascination with heavy metal.

-- JON CARAMANICA

• Beach Bunny, "Good Girls (Don't Get Used)." "I'm tired of dumb boy talk," Lili Trifilio sings, pulling no punches on "Good Girls (Don't Get Used)," the bouncy new single from Chicago indie-poppers Beach Bunny. Trifilio's lyrics are incisive, delivering a pent-up torrent of hard truths to the noncommittal guy who's been sending her mixed signals: "Stop saying 'it's my bad,' you're acting like your deadbeat dad." But the song, which will appear on the band's upcoming "Blame Game" EP, is grounded in her triumphant sense of self, shaking off the insecurities she so endearingly confessed on Beach Bunny's breakout song "Prom Queen." "You're not a ghost," Trifilio shouts this time with hard-won confidence. "I'm not afraid of you!"

-- LINDSAY ZOLADZ

• Nana Yamato, "If." Technically, "If" is the debut single from Toyko's Nana Yamato -- though she used to release dreamy, homespun bedroom-pop tunes under the admittedly harder-to-Google name ANNA. The song is a promising preview of her debut album "Before Sunrise," which will be out in February on Dull Tools, Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts' label. Catchy and a little kitschy, "If" is propelled forward by a jangly electric guitar and sing-songy hook ("If you know what I really need ...") but occasionally disrupted by charming, doodled tangents like random laser noises and an unexpected trumpet solo.

-- LINDSAY ZOLADZ

• Lil Wayne featuring Drake, "B.B. King Freestyle." Drake is an (emotionally) anxious rapper. His mentor Lil Wayne is an (energetically) anxious rapper. So it's refreshing to hear them opt for a winning calmness on this collaboration, over neo-soul production that sounds like it could have been an interlude from one of the "Lyricist Lounge" compilations. Drake ambiently muses on the usual stressors -- "I may not be good for her but I'm real to her / Got no time for her but give Richard Mille to her." But it's Lil Wayne who's truly Zen, afloat in a vortex of internal rhyme and syllabic cha-cha.

-- JON CARAMANICA

• Britney Spears, "Swimming in the Stars." Released on Britney Spears' 39th birthday, "Swimming in the Stars" is an outtake from "Glory," her 2016 album that will be rereleased with additional tracks. Written by Matthew Koma, Dan Book and Alexsei Misoul, it's a gleaming, booming, step-by-step EDM-pop buildup, a pulsing crescendo that opens a vast, echoey synthetic expanse as Spears promises "We'll glow and shimmer in the diamond lights." With big-room dance floors closed and empty, it feels like a relic from some distant pop universe.

-- JON PARELES

• Jenny Lewis and Serengeti, "Unblu." Jenny Lewis recaptures a narcotic late-1960s Velvet Underground flavor -- three chords sustained with drones, sitar and latter-day synthesizers -- in "Unblu," her collaboration with Chicago rapper Serengeti. She and he share the question "How long will I wait for you to become unblue?" It's not answered.

-- JON PARELES

• Sonny Rollins, "Tune Up." When Sonny Rollins visited Vara Studio in Hilversum, Holland, in 1967, he was about to embark on a six-year hiatus from recording. As he did at various points in his career, Rollins took a step away from public performances largely to engage in a period of study, this time focused on spiritual practices at an ashram in India. But just before that new chapter, Rollins showed no signs of fatigue on the set of recordings he made in Holland, which are being released for the first time via Resonance Records. Playing in a stripped-down trio with bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink, the saxophone colossus blazes through Miles Davis' "Tune Up," swerving with utter control while Bennink, who's best known as a free jazz drummer, swings along mightily.

-- GIOVANNI

RUSSONELLO

• La Chica, "La Loba." Sophie Fustec's mother is Venezuelan and her father is French; she was born in Paris. But as La Chica she writes lyrics in Spanish with bits of English. "La Loba" suggests a collaboration of Fiona Apple, Rosalía and Radiohead; La Chica sings, raps and screams about a legendary Mexican wolf-woman and sorceress, with an English refrain: "I pick up the bones." A menacing piano riff paces the track, taking on chords, flamenco handclaps and vocal harmonies. The music turns strangely dulcet at the end, as if the carnage suddenly subsided.

-- JON PARELES

• Kali Uchis, "Telepatía." "Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)," the second album by Colombian American songwriter Kali Uchis, goes genre-hopping and era-hopping, from romantically retro orchestral bolero to brittle reggaeton. "Telepatía" ("Telepathy") is a languid, bilingual neo-soul tease, with plush sustained chords and simulated horns, as Uchis laments that "the moon is full, my bed is empty" and wonders about making love telepathically.

-- JON PARELES

• 24kGoldn featuring DaBaby, "Coco." 24kGoldn's deceptively tense "Mood" recently strummed its way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. How does a relatively untested artist follow such a success? Well, yes, with a star-studded remix (with Justin Bieber and J Balvin, though that proved ineffectual). But really, the answer is a sideways sequel, a psst-psst part two, a new song that one could be forgiven for thinking was simply the outro to the old one. Hence, "Coco," which is built on similarly parched guitar, and which builds on the same skepticism as "Mood." There's a perfunctory verse from DaBaby, but he doesn't derail 24kGoldn's commitment to complaint. Whining got him this far -- why stop?

-- JON CARAMANICA

• Ant Clemons featuring Justin Timberlake, "Better Days." The chord progression and measured pace come from vintage soul, along with the gospelly call-and-response ending and the organ obbligato. But many of the sonic trappings are from the digital era: electronic vocal tweaks, backup voices peeking in and winking out, eerie spatial effects, strings that might well be simulated. Yet an old spirit and message persist: Persevere through tribulations.

-- JON PARELES

• Brandee Younger and Dezron Douglas, "Gospel Trane." As far as quarantine predicaments, it could get a lot worse than this: You and your spouse play the bass and the harp, and you're free to pick up your instruments and pick out a tune together in any downtime. That's what life has been like for harpist Brandee Younger and bassist Dezron Douglas, who decided in the spring that their quarantine idyll was worth sharing, and began performing regular livestreamed concerts. Some performances from those shows are now being released as an album, titled "Force Majeure" in a cheeky reference to the contractual clause that's cited when something catastrophic -- a pandemic, say -- prevents a contracted gig from taking place. Covering Alice Coltrane's "Gospel Trane," sharing the melody with ease, Younger and Douglas don't sound like they're lamenting the time spent alone together.

-- GIOVANNI

RUSSONELLO

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