The Playlist: Cher Covers Abba (Again!), and 10 More New Songs

The Playlist: Cher Covers Abba (Again!), and 10 More New Songs


Hear tracks from Travis Scott, Aphex Twin, Big Freedia and others.

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Inspired by her role in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” Cher recorded a full album of Abba covers.CreditIsabel Infantes/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” may not have wowed all the critics, but it did revive a lucrative demographic: people who like hearing covers of Abba songs. Cher, who sings “Fernando” and “Super Trouper” in the movie, rolled with the idea, recording an entire album of the Swedish pop group’s tracks called “Dancing Queen,” due in Sept. Her “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” adds a bit of heft to the twinkling original — deeper, more soulful vocals; what sounds like the Madonna “Hung Up” adaptation of the track’s main hook; and, why not, a touch of Vocoder. The writer Jill Gutowitz had joked on Twitter that a photo of Cher and Meryl Streep kissing on the red carpet at the film’s premiere had killed all gay men and women; if anyone survived, this will likely finish them off. CARYN GANZ

Travis Scott, ‘Stop Trying to Be God’

Travis Scott is less a stand-alone rapper than a full-fledged cross-media performance interventionist. In the video for “Stop Trying to Be God” — one of the densest and most affecting songs from his new album, “Astroworld” — he walks among sheep, gets smote by fire blasts from the sky, baptizes people in a pool and rides a dragon-like creature through the sky. It’s part naturalism, part Troma, part early Japanese monster movie. Throughout, Stevie Wonder plays the harmonica. JON CARAMANICA

Aphex Twin, ‘T69 Collapse’ (Warning: Contains Strobing)

I would quote from the press materials that accompanied the announcement that Aphex Twin will be releasing a new EP in Sept., but the text came in a graphic as warped as its opening track, “T69 Collapse.” Aphex Twin, a.k.a. the British electronic musician Richard D. James, has been relatively prolific under this name in the past few years: “Collapse,” the new EP, follows the 2016 EP “Cheetah” and the 2014 double album “Syro,” which ended a 13-year break. It’s easy to lose yourself in the song’s increasingly manic energy and squelchy synths, but if you want a genuine five-minute-and-18-second escape from reality (and don’t suffer from epilepsy!) watch the video, by Weirdcore, a.k.a. the artist Nicky Smith, which I imagine mimics taking a peyote bath as you unplug from the Matrix. As Mr. Smith explained to Fast Company, the clip uses render engines to turn scenes from Cornwall, England, and a 3D scan of Mr. James’s face into constantly morphing, collapsing, reshaping imagery. Hang on — or let go — if you’re game. C.G.

girl in red, ‘girls’

Extremely promising, witty and raw, girl in red is a young, gay Norwegian lo-fi singer-songwriter, who is just now migrating from Bandcamp into the wider slipstream. On her songs, she is lovelorn but not tentative. Her best ones are about crushes, and “girls” is a sweet declaration of certainty about who those crushes are on, and who they’re not: “I should be into this guy,” she sighs. “But it’s just a waste of time/He’s really not my type/I know what I like.” J.C.

Madison McFerrin, ‘Insane’

A silky, sultry song deserves a video to match. That’s what Madison McFerrin’s “Insane” gets — sexy, but solitary. The song is about being swept up in desire but Ms. McFerrin sings it in a solo a cappella loop, giving the performance an eerie intimacy and feeding her own power back to her. In the video, lying in a bed of flowers, Ms. McFerrin (whose musical style borrows heavily from her father, the jazz eminence Bobby McFerrin, another hero of unaccompanied singing) coaxes and coquets, but she ultimately seems satisfied to be alone. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Dilly Dally, ‘Sober Motel’

Here is some glorious savagery from the Toronto band Dilly Dally, on a single from its upcoming album, “Heaven.” The frontwoman Katie Monks sings about sobriety in a manner that’s calmly possessed, and the rest of the band backs her with early 1990s-style filth-rock redolent of the muck sobriety is an escape from. J.C.

Smokepurpp featuring Lil Pump, ‘Nephew’

SoundCloud rap hasn’t been around terribly long, but still long enough for Smokepurpp to have encouraged Lil Pump to become a rapper, make a whole bunch of songs together, tour together, get signed to record deals at competing labels (and in Lil Pump’s case, sign a new deal far more lucrative than the first one), slowly drift apart, and then, now, have a triumphant reunion. On “Nephew,” Smokepurpp the elder is confidently eerie, while Lil Pump the younger is gleefully absurdist. Reunited and it feels so ridiculous. J.C.

Big Freedia featuring Lizzo, ‘Karaoke’

If you believe in the idea of the so-called Song of the Summer, here’s a late-breaking entry: a glorious team-up featuring Big Freedia, a leader of the New Orleans bounce scene, and Lizzo, a Minneapolis-based singer and rapper. With a horn line reminiscent of Ariana Grande’s “Problem” and a video shot partially in a bingo hall, this track is a joyful ode to strutting your stuff on any stage you see fit. C.G.

J. Cole, ‘Album of the Year (Freestyle)’

Over the riotous instrumental from “Oochie Wally” by the Nas side project QB Finest, J. Cole delivers his loosest rhymes of this year. Some of them are still aimed at the young rappers who’ve made him a straw man for everything … not young. But the most revealing ones are about the tolls of drug dealing, on both sides of the transaction:

Now we push pills and sell heroin to Billy
Now Billy mama want the judge to pardon his addiction
How many black addicts done got caught up in the system
With no sob stories on your prime-time television
I can smell a blatant contradiction

J.C.

Miguel Zenón and Spektral Quartet, ‘Milagrosa’

Miguel Zenón, an alto saxophonist and MacArthur fellow, has a new album coming next month accompanied by this contemporary-classical string quartet. This week he released a studio video of “Milagrosa,” a piece with Mr. Zenón’s characteristically chattery pulse. The strings seem to be in constant pursuit of a spiraling harmonic center, executing quick, sharp rhythms that feel almost danceable. Mr. Zenón folds his blossoming saxophone sound snugly into the quartet; when he starts to improvise around the two-minute mark, the energy loosens slightly, but the five musicians remain closely enwrapped. G.R.

Nicole Mitchell, ‘Warm Dark Realness’

The flutist and prolific composer Nicole Mitchell has her own ideas about what improvised chamber music might sound like. On “Maroon Cloud,” her newest record, she uses a quartet with no bass and no drums, creating a fluid and unsettled group dynamic. She’s joined by just cello (Tomeka Reid), piano (Aruán Ortiz) and vocals (Fay Victor, whose boundless singing style that seems to be asking a different set of questions in every song). On some tracks, Ms. Reid articulates a chugging pulse, but on “Warm Dark Realness” all four musicians move in a slow ooze, building mystery instead of momentum. G.R.

Jon Caramanica is a pop music critic for The Times and the host of the Popcast. He also writes the men’s Critical Shopper column for Styles. He previously worked for Vibe magazine, and has written for the Village Voice, Spin, XXL and more. @joncaramanica





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