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

◼️ Maren Morris, "Better Than We Found It." If a country music fan watches Maren Morris' entire video for her new song, "Better Than We Found It," here is what that person would absorb:

• The story of two young Mexican boys, beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, soon to return to Mexico

• Footage of Black Lives Matter protests

• The uncle of Daniel Hambrick, shot and killed by Nashville, Tenn., police in 2018, striking a shooting stance and painfully reenacting the moment: "Pow, pow, pow pow"

Morris doesn't push as directly in the song itself — listen casually and it could be the kind of paean to faith and neighborliness and good acts that might, in simpler times, come out of the mouth of any of Morris' Nashville peers. But her references to xenophobes, to being told to stay silent about politics, and to blue-clad wolves knocking at doors are crisp and striking, and her willingness to state the obvious is, in this spoiled moment, a form of bravery:

"America, America, divided we fall/America, America, God save us all/From ourselves and the hell that we built for our kids/America, America, we're better than this."

— JON CARAMANICA

◼️ Halsey, "I'm Not Mad." After the breakup cools, clarity arrives. Halsey captures this vividly and sneeringly on "I'm Not Mad," from the deluxe edition of her recent album "Manic." The chorus is optimistic — it focuses on how she has moved on. But in the verses, she's still looking in the rear-view, her eyes narrowed into a seething glare: "I hope your little brother turns out/To be nothing like you."

— JON CARAMANICA

◼️ Jonsi featuring Robyn, "Salt Licorice." Few could have predicted this collaboration: Jonsi, who led the sweepingly cinematic band Sigur Ros, working with dance-crying auteur Robyn and brittle, glitch-loving, meta-pop producer A.G. Cook. It's legato vs. staccato, contemplation vs. dance, physicality and breath vs. programming. Upbeat and second-by-second changeable, the track feels like a collision of sensibilities and time frames: "You're a heartbreaker, olé!'" But it also strikes sparks.

— JON PARELES

◼️ Jorja Smith featuring Popcaan, "Come Over." "I don't know if you want me to come over," British R&B singer Jorja Smith ponders in this exploration of a relationship's communications gap. "I wish I could read your mind." Meanwhile, Jamaican singer-rapper Popcaan complains, "I call for you girl, but you don't answer me." The beat is a semi-submerged variant of dance hall; the situation is all too common.

— JON PARELES

◼️ Priya Ragu, "Good Love 2.0." Priya Ragu is Swiss; her parents are Tamils from Sri Lanka. The first half of "Good Love 2.0," like most of her recordings, is steeped in the cushy keyboard chords and short phrases of 1990s R&B as she switches between singing and rapping. But two minutes in, everything changes and convention disappears. South Asian drumming pushing threes against twos, and swirling electronic loops and male and female voices, in different modes, summon the East-West hybrid she promises at her best.

— JON PARELES

◼️ 21 Savage and Metro Boomin', "No Opp Left Behind." From the moody, sinister collaborative album "Savage Mode II" — a sequel to "Savage Mode," from 2016 — comes "No Opp Left Behind," a prime example of 21 Savage's plain-spoken grimness and Metro Boomin's theatrical bounce.

— JON CARAMANICA

◼️ Dayna Stephens, "Tarifa." Try not to be overwhelmed by the low-key exchange that opens "Tarifa," from saxophonist Dayna Stephens' new album, "Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard." Until a few months ago, it was commonplace: Ben Street opens with a few notes of the tune's syncopated bass line, and Stephens utters an affirmation, as if saying, "My heart heard that!" Feeling invited, the crowd calls back with a ripple of laughter. Street's kick-stepping line locks in with the restrained piano accompaniment of Aaron Parks and drummer Greg Hutchinson's Mediterranean-accented pattern. Stephens' soprano saxophone carries the incantatory, airborne melody, which he wrote in a fit of inspiration after traveling to a Spanish town that overlooks Morocco. The performance never tips into melodrama or open display, but you can feel the band becoming a collective engine, at once clearing and cluttering Stephens' path, drawing the listeners into the equation.

— GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

◼️ Omar Apollo, "Dos Uno Nueve (219)." Area code 219 covers northwestern Indiana, where Omar Apollo was born and grew up. He has built his audience with long-breathed R&B songs. He is also Mexican American, and he often slips some Spanish lyrics into his R&B. In "Dos Uno Nueve (219)" he switches to the traditional Mexican music he grew up hearing: a corrido, a lilting waltz backed by bass and filigreed, improvisational guitars. He sings about being a self-made success against the odds, and about earning his expensive wardrobe; a few spoken words provide hip-hop swagger and profanity. But it's a surprisingly old-school corrido — no electronics, no drums.

— JON PARELES

◼️ Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, "Oakanda Spoonful." Burnt Sugar isn't the best-known band to emerge from the Black Rock Coalition — a group of (mostly) musicians that came together in the 1980s to blast back against the whitewashing of rock, punk, Sun Ra's legacy, and anything related to free jazz or guitars or the New York underground — but it has become the collective's flagship. Loosely led by game-changing critic and musician Greg Tate, Burnt Sugar's snaky, acid-blasted sound collages have the multidimensional abundance of an assemblage and the tangled narrative of a surrealist text. It makes sense that this track — its title refers to the reclamation of Oakland, Calif., as a historical site of Black resistance — would be prominently featured on the first release from Burning Ambulance, a new record label created by artist I.A. Freeman and writer Phil Freeman, who as a critic seeks to uncover the missed connections and social imperatives running through the vast territory of improvised music today.

— GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

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