Nicki Minaj Returns Ready to Rumble, and 8 More New Songs

Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos. 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.

Nicki Minaj, ‘Red Ruby Da Sleeze’

Calm arrogance is Nicki Minaj’s gift. There’s no need to decipher all her allusions because her delivery and production say it all. The track of “Red Ruby Da Sleeze,” based on Lumidee’s “Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh),” juggles near-flamenco handclaps, trap drums and choral vocals going “Uh-oh.” Her percussive rhymes are competitive in every realm — linguistic, sexual, financial, culinary (“guacamole with the taco”) — and their utter confidence is still convincing. JON PARELES

Kali Uchis and Summer Walker, ‘Deserve Me’

“Red Moon in Venus,” the third studio album by the cheerfully bilingual Colombian American songwriter Kali Uchis, moves between sensual romance and fierce recriminations. “Deserve Me” is blunt: “I like it better when you’re gone/I feel a little less alone.” Uchis and Summer Walker take turns bad-mouthing the thoughtless lover who’s getting dumped, and harmonize sweetly to remind him, “You don’t deserve me.” The track starts out light and tinkly but keeps adding bassy layers, literally showing the depth of their contempt. PARELES

boygenius, ‘Not Strong Enough’

The indie-rock trio boygenius — Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker — formed in 2018, under a cheeky moniker that, Dacus said in an interview, was meant to harness some macho overconfidence: “We were just talking about boys and men we know who’ve been told that they are geniuses since they could hear, basically, and what type of creative work comes out of that upbringing.” The group’s stirring, acoustic-guitar-driven new single “Not Strong Enough” once again finds the women in provocative but poetic drag, as they harmonize on a chorus that answers Sheryl Crow: “I don’t know why I am the way I am, not strong enough to be your man.” On a steadily galloping bridge, Dacus leads the trio in a chant that expresses frustration at being “always an angel, never a god.” But by the end of the candid “Not Strong Enough,” boygenius has generated its own kind of strength in vulnerability — and in numbers. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Arlo Parks, ‘Impurities’

The English songwriter Arlo Parks has absorbed Joni Mitchell, hip-hop and much more; it’s no wonder she is willing to enjoy her “Impurities.” Her new track revolves around echoey loops and samples, but she has a paradoxical lesson to impart: “When you embrace all my impurities, then I feel clean again.” PARELES

Mandy, Indiana, ‘Pinking Shears’

On the echoey, percussion-forward “Pinking Shears,” the Manchester art-rockers Mandy, Indiana forcefully and exhaustedly reject an increasingly mechanized world: “J’suis fatiguée” (“I’m tired”) becomes a kind of mantra when chanted by the band’s vocalist Valentine Caulfield. But there’s catharsis and resistance in the industrial abrasion of the sound they create, like a rogue machine created from cobbled-together parts suddenly learning how to talk back. ZOLADZ

Water From Your Eyes, ‘Barley’

The hypnotic “Barley,” from the Brooklyn duo Water From Your Eyes, sounds a bit like a playground chant reimagined by Sonic Youth: “One, two, three, counter, you’re a cool thing, count mountains,” Rachel Brown drones in a charismatic deadpan. The song — and first single from the forthcoming album “Everyone’s Crushed,” which comes out on May 26 — is full of loopy left-turns and unexpected riffs that jut out at odd angles, but Brown and bandmate Nate Amos are, at all times, utterly in command of their strange and alluring sonic universe. ZOLADZ

6lack, ‘Since I Have a Lover’

6lack positions himself between singer and rapper on “Since I Have a Lover,” which has a looped feeling. He barely projects his voice, but he rides the rhythm of a loping, two-chord guitar track as he promises more than a passing attraction. Will it last? The song suggests a woozy maybe. PARELES

Princess Nokia, ‘Lo Siento’

Steady, wistful piano chords carry Princess Nokia through “Lo Siento” (“I’m Sorry”) from her EP due March 14, “I Love You But This Is Goodbye.” It’s not really an apology; as the production blooms into lush, pillowy harmonies, she switches from singing in English to calmly rapping in Spanish, cursing her lover for betrayal and noting, “Thanks for the pain, the pain in my song.” PARELES

yMusic, ‘Zebras’

A seven-beat rhythm percolates through “Zebras,” a minimalistic but eventful romp by the chamber sextet yMusic. The rhythm hops from key clicks on a bass clarinet to pizzicato strings; it’s juxtaposed with sighing melody lines and hints of a circus band, making the most of its three-and-a-half minutes. PARELES

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