Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new tracks. 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, and The Amplifier, a twice-weekly guide to new and old songs.
André 3000, ‘Dreams Once Buried Beneath the Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens’
“New Blue Sun,” the presumptive winner of the 2025 Grammy for best new age, ambient or chant album, is by André 3000 — one half of Outkast, and one of the most innovative rappers ever. He’s playing a variety of wind instruments here, but his primary means of communication is the very peculiar deployment of the low-simmer anti-fame he’s cultivated over the almost two decades since his duo’s last album. Searching, nonlinear, placid-but-itchy songs are his apparent medium now, but retreat is his real art.
It’s also what this album invites, either as a matter of absorption or distraction. “New Blue Sun” — which was made with the post-hip-hop genre-agnostic producer Carlos Niño and a gathering of Los Angeles experimentalists — requires patience, and sometimes rewards it. But mostly it proposes a question: Can someone who was once so present find meaning in absence?
Technically, there are no raps on this album — no words whatsoever. But there’s rogue energy busting through the song titles, which are agitated and pithy and slithery in a way the songs themselves are not. The album closer, “Dreams Once Buried Beneath the Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens,” is 17 minutes long, though it’s not terribly preoccupied with time. It is by turns enchanting and maddening, cloying and majestic. Like the rest of the songs, it doesn’t privilege beginnings and endings so much as muse through a variety of middles.
On this album, André 3000 plays a few different wind instruments, one of which is digital (how so isn’t specified). “You can hear me figuring the instrument out,” he told GQ in an interview. “To me, that’s one of the coolest things about the recording. I’m actually listening to myself be a baby at something.” As are you — cuddly, colicky, the whole thing. JON CARAMANICA
Dua Lipa, ‘Houdini’
The first single from Dua Lipa’s forthcoming third album finds the pop phenom linking up with some flashy new collaborators: the Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker, the PC Music experimentalist Danny L Harle and the songwriter-for-the-stars Tobias Jesso Jr. While Parker’s influence can certainly be heard in the song’s punchy, prismatic production, the track is perhaps most noticeably indebted to Madonna’s 2005 comeback smash “Hung Up,” which a fiery-coiffed Lipa pays homage to in the music video. “I’m not here for long, catch me or I go Houdini,” Lipa confidently asserts on the hook, effectively referencing magic if not establishing her own signature trick. LINDSAY ZOLADZ
Danny Brown, ‘Jenn’s Terrific Vacation’
Danny Brown raps in a comically exaggerated, nasal singsong, but he’s a trickster cloaking serious ideas. In “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation,” he confronts the gentrification of his hometown, Detroit, as rents rise and neighborhood fixtures are replaced by corporate franchises. “Right there used to be a crack house/Now it’s an organic garden,” he notes, but he also recognizes the expulsion of longtime residents: “Whatcha gonna do/where you gonna go?” The production, by the drummer and studio wizard Kassa Overall, is a disorienting, stereo-bouncing, echoey, percussive eruption, a sonic analog of the human displacement. JON PARELES
No Guidnce, ‘White Tee’
Here’s a balmy, sweet flirtation from No Guidnce, a British R&B foursome — Zeekay, Ebubé, Josh, Kaci — with uncanny harmonies and a striking sense of restraint and decorum. The group nods heavily to the American R&B outfits of the late ’80s and ’90s (Mint Condition, Boyz II Men, Tony! Toni! Toné) that prioritized smoothness and harmony over vocal-power dynamics. And this song is one a string of alluring No Guidnce homages to that era: see also “Committed” and “Is It a Crime?” CARAMANICA
Drake, ‘Red Button’
“For All the Dogs Scary Hours Edition” adds six songs to Drake’s most recent album, but really it adds one mode — resentful, meditative, technically dense rapping that, taken all together, suggest scowling but therapeutic release. On “Red Button,” in between lines paying homage to Taylor Swift and taking shots at Kanye West, he tap-dances through some casually intense rhymes that bridge taunt, longing and boast: “Even when you stab me in the back, the vest is metal-plated/Tryna see a B inside my circle like I’m gettin’ graded/Man, all this luggage in the lobby like I’m gettin’ traded.” CARAMANICA
Madi Diaz and Kacey Musgraves, ‘Don’t Do Me Good’
In a slow, stark waltz, Madi Diaz and Kacey Musgraves sing about being stuck in a self-deluding, destructive relationship. “Every time I try to walk away, I stay/ You knew I would,” they sing, eventually harmonizing in a crescendo of sisterly solidarity. PARELES
Julia Holter, ‘Sun Girl’
“Sun Girl” is a blissed-out blur, a meandering, neo-psychedelic ramble with Julia Holter calmly repeating lines like “My dreams as I dream them all together.” Around her, at various times, are twittering wooden flutes, a rolling bass vamp, diaphanous vocal harmonies, stray percussion and ethereal keyboards, appearing and disappearing at whim while leaving her entirely unruffled. PARELES
Mbuso Khoza featuring Nduduzo Makhathini, ‘Sibiziwe’
Mbuso Khoza has one of the most elevating voices in South African music. Growing up in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, he first discovered the power of his instrument hearing it resound throughout the region’s green hills. As he has immersed himself more deeply in the jazz world, he has maintained a commitment to Zulu traditions, especially the folk music style of Amahubo. On his new album, “Ifa Lomkono,” Khoza joins a high-caliber band led by the pianist Nduduzo Makhathini (whose solo music springs directly from his Zulu heritage, too). “Sibiziwe” finds the group piling into a swinging, three-on-four polyrhythm: a musical idiom that connects the Eastern Cape with straight-ahead jazz of a post-Coltrane mode. As Khoza sings the titular line — which translates roughly to, “We were called upon” — Ndabo Zulu’s trumpet and Linda Sikhakhane’s tenor saxophone travel in soaring unison, splitting up occasionally into savory two-part harmony. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
Sullivan Fortner, ‘Congolese Children’ and ‘Space Walk’
Sullivan Fortner plays the piano with such “mastry” — to borrow a term from Kerry James Marshall — that it’d be possible to mistake him for a traditionalist. On Part 1 of his new double-LP, “Solo Game,” which includes tunes from the Great American Songbook and beyond, Fortner’s left and right hands dart over and around each other, creating a high-velocity architecture of rhythm and harmony. On Randy Weston’s “Congolese Children,” he keeps a syncopated pulse going, adorning it with a dizzying feed of melodies and harmonies and references (catch the sly Sonny Rollins shout out near the end). But then, on Part 2 — the “Game” side of the album — it’s the studio that becomes his playground. “Space Walk,” for one, is an antigravity experiment in electrostatic sound: somewhere between the oddball experiments of a Leon Russell or a Joe Meek, and the recent “jazz” forays of a Lil Yachty or even, yes, an André 3000. RUSSONELLO