The Playlist: Christina Aguilera’s Bizarre Puzzle, and 13 More New Songs
Posted May 6, 2018 7:43 p.m. EDT
Pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on notable new songs and videos.
Christina Aguilera, featuring Ty Dolla Sign and 2 Chainz, “Accelerate”
What is happening here? Christina Aguilera, possessor of one of the great voices of the 2000s, has been mostly silent the last five years. And with her new single “Accelerate” — from the forthcoming album “Liberation,” due in June — she’s something not far from silent, one small piece in a fantastically weird puzzle. “Accelerate,” produced by Kanye West, Che Pope and Mike Dean, sounds as if it’s built from spare parts: Ty Dolla Sign’s moans and yelps, sinuous keyboard lines, a charmingly staccato verse from 2 Chainz. Somewhere in there is Aguilera, undersinging and trying not to get pushed into a corner. And yet despite these disparate inputs, there’s something loose and admirable happening here: Everyone is trying new things, and the disarray verges on flamboyance.
— JON CARAMANICA
Dirty Projectors, “Break-Thru”
“Break-Thru” is the first glimpse of the Dirty Projectors’ album due in July, “Lamp Lit Prose,” and with it the group’s songwriter, David Longstreth, leaves behind the sullen, disjointed breakup songs from the band’s previous album. A perky Afropop guitar lick and a buzzy synthesizer hop and cackle around him as he praises a new love in happy staccato bursts: “She is an epiphany/ her electricity.”
— JON PARELES
Joey Alexander, “Fourteen”
The 14-year-old virtuoso Joey Alexander is already on his fourth solo album, and “Eclipse” is his most engrossing yet. Recorded on the day of the solar eclipse in 2017, it finds the pianist sounding uninhibited, letting some sweat fly. As always, his harmonies are a great marvel, and these pieces tend to have an exuberant bounce — carried off with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland — somewhere between swing rhythm, calypso and Javanese propulsion. Six of 11 tracks on “Eclipse” are originals; “Fourteen” is a highlight with an appearance by the eminent tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman. An intensely responsive soloist, he maneuvers with assurance as Alexander dances about him, bright chords and buzzing inflections laying fresh bait at every turn.
— GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
Travis Scott, featuring Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert, “Watch”
After a rather draining few weeks in the public life of Kanye West comes this vivid verse, on a new Travis Scott song (produced by Pi’erre Bourne) with a cuddly Lil Uzi Vert chorus. West lets down the veil a bit, giving chum to voyeurs while also taking them to task:
“Wanna know how I feel? Step into my minefield.Wanna know how pain feels? I got off my main pills Bet my wifey stay close, she know I’m on my BezosOpioid addiction, pharmacy’s the real trapSometimes I feel trapped, Jordan with no Phil JackOne year it’s Illuminati, next year it’s the Sunken Place.”
— JON CARAMANICA
Protomartyr, featuring Kelley Deal, “Wheel of Fortune”
Joe Casey, the vocalist and lyricist of the post-punk band Protomartyr, posits capitalism as a grim reaper in “Wheel of Fortune,” from the band’s coming EP. “I decide who lives and who dies,” he growls, with backup vocals from Kelley Deal of the Breeders turning it into a melody. The song is a suite of three disparate sections — two carrying lyrics, one wordless with a spooky high vocal, each section a crescendo of increasing density and dissonance. As the pressure rises, Casey observes things like “A man with a gun and a deluded sense of purpose/ A good guy with a gun who missed/ A police state desperate to reach quota.” No happy endings here.
— JON PARELES