Cardi B Hits Pay Dirt, and 11 More New Songs

Posted October 28, 2018 4:26 p.m. EDT

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

Cardi B, ‘Money’

What’s the opposite of a palate cleanser? Currently, Cardi B is featured on the No. 1 song in the country, Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You.” It is not her best, nor most apt work. So here comes the palate roughener? “Money” is effectively a stripped-bare version of BlocBoy JB and Drake’s already-bare “Look Alive,” and a de facto lo-fi rejoinder to Cardi B’s steady pop incursions over the past year. The trash talk here is pure, if a little staid: “I like boarding jets, I like morning sex/But nothing in this world that I like more than checks.” Instead, “Money” — the first solo single Cardi B has released since giving birth in July — is notable for its acknowledgment of new-mom problems: “I got a baby, I need some money, I need cheese for my egg.”


Lauren Jauregui, ‘Expectations’

Jauregui’s starter single after the disbandment of Fifth Harmony this year is a casually bluesy R&B smolderer. Always an impressive singer — dating back to her “X-Factor” audition in 2012 — she’s in fine form here, squeezing the pathos out of a song that mistakes languor for attitude.


Maggie Rogers, ‘Light On’

Perhaps it was inevitable that country would connect with electronic dance music; they share major chords and a foot-stomping beat. Maggie Rogers makes this commercial merger graceful in “Light On,” an are-we-breaking-up song that allows for a second chance but doesn’t beg for it — she’s dancing anyway.


The Good, the Bad & the Queen, ‘Merrie Land’

Here’s a bummed-out Brexit song from Damon Albarn and his supergroup, the Good, the Bad & the Queen, with Paul Simonon from the Clash, Simon Tong from the Verve and Tony Allen, the great drummer from Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Afrobeat bands. The song is glum and pragmatic, unfolding over a six-beat rhythm and minor-chord keyboards. “I love this country,” Albarn sings, while he clearly sees the gap between the prosperous and those who were left behind: “Are we green, are we pleasant?/We are not.”


Tyler, the Creator, ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’

Tyler, the Creator arrived years ago as a provocateur and rapscallion, but his hero and lodestar has always been Pharrell Williams, the master of simultaneous soothing and thumping. Add in Tyler’s adoration of classic film scores, and a logical evolutionary step becomes clear: making music for an animated film. He is producing several original songs for the soundtrack of “The Grinch” — the update of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” — but first comes this cover of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The original is loopy and weird, and Tyler distends it further, bellowing its eccentric lyrics — “You’re a bad banana/with a greasy black peeeel” — while behind him, a chorus of cuddly children sings sweetly about gruesome things: “You have garlic! In! Your soul!”


Julia Holter, ‘I Shall Love 2’

Composer and singer Julia Holter’s new album, “Aviary,” is a dense, knotty, cryptic collection that encompasses orchestral minimalism, drum machines, medieval troubadour songs, enigmatic piano ballads, labyrinthine electronics and more. Its most accessible entry point is “I Shall Love 2,” which sets up two alternating chords and a mechanical beat and calmly declares, “I am in love/What can I do?” It builds from there, with a wordless melody, gusts of string orchestra, an improvisational double bass and a stately, steadily expanding brass section; its video shows her literally falling, again and again. By the time a choir of Holter’s voice gathers to proclaim, “I shall love,” bliss prevails.


Makaya McCraven, ‘Voila’

For drummer Makaya McCraven, beat-making isn’t necessarily a solitary activity, and jazz doesn’t have to be created entirely live. Over the past few years he has developed a way of making earthy, coagulated, hypercharged music by capturing live jams on tape, then reconstructing them in the studio. He recorded “Universal Beings,” a new double album, playing with different ensembles at small concerts in four different cities. “Voila” is one of five tracks recorded in London with tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia, keyboardist Ashley Henry and bassist Daniel Casimir, all young musicians based there. It centers on McCraven’s heavy cymbal playing, a signature; a subtle but stubborn harmonic pattern; and Garcia’s distant saxophone.


Laura Gibson, ‘Domestication’

Over five albums since 2009, Laura Gibson has steadily and ambitiously expanded both her music and lyrics, from folky to surreal, spooky and allegorical. “Domestication” is on her new album, “Goners,” which uses the resources of chamber pop and electronics to explore grief and self-creation. The song has a looped beat, multitracked vocal harmonies and a dramatically sliding, Bollywood-tinged string section. “I was born a wolf in woman’s clothes,” she sings. “You saw my hunger, called it tenderness.” It’s about longing and instinct, and whether they can ever converge.


Helena Deland, ‘A Stone Is a Stone’

“Think of something you’ve seen breaking down,” Helena Deland sings in “A Stone Is a Stone,” from the not-quite-an-album, “Altogether Unaccompanied,” that she has called a “series of songs” and began releasing bit by bit in the spring. The songs are by no means a cappella; this one starts as a lo-fi waltz and gathers a full folk-rock band. She sings about knowledge and disorientation, discord and reconciliation; the music tells the same story.


Mitchell Tenpenny, ‘Walk Like Him’

Country singer Mitchell Tenpenny has a growing hit with “Drunk Me,” a soft-rock power ballad that blends raw, brute tension and doubled-over pain: “I’ve been sober since you broke my heart in two/'cause drunk me can’t get over you.” He’s one of the singers helping to displace the genre’s reigning gentlemen, playing up his brawn while doubling down on his feelings. His new single, “Walk Like Him,” is about living in the shadow of, and trying to live up to, his father. It’s gentle and lithe, an especially John Mayer-ish rebrand from a singer whose breakthrough song was called “Bitches.”


XXXTentacion and Lil Pump featuring Maluma and Swae Lee, ‘Arms Around You’

This week, the Miami-Dade County state attorney’s office released an audio recording that appeared to capture XXXTentacion admitting to various crimes, including the assault he was charged with at the time of his killing in June. (The charges were dropped after his death.) Not long after came the release of this song — a dull collaboration by committee, playing to no one’s strengths. XXXTentacion and Lil Pump get main billing here, but it’s Swae Lee who serves as the glue and guiding light. It’s a distraction, and an ineffective one at that.


David Virelles, ‘Bodas de Oro’

This pianist’s music tends to be dark and deep, almost dissolved in itself: He uses elements of Cuban folklore, Western classical and avant-garde improvisation to trouble and cancel each other out. The context that usually surrounds each style becomes secondary, or gets lost. But on his new album, “Igbó Alákọrin (The Singer’s Grove) Vol. I and II,” David Virelles is doing the opposite. He returned to his hometown of Santiago, Cuba, to record this one with traditional musicians, playing faithfully in a range of 20th-century dance styles. “Bodas De Oro” is a classic by Chepín, one of Cuba’s great midcentury composers. Virelles adds crisp, dutiful flourishes beneath a singing chorus, then takes a loosened-up solo with hints of his old, deconstructive attitude.