The Playlist: Ariana Grande’s Next Step, and 12 More New Songs | Modern Society of USA

The Playlist: Ariana Grande’s Next Step, and 12 More New Songs

The Playlist: Ariana Grande’s Next Step, and 12 More New Songs

A couple of months ago, Ariana Grande explained her new strategic philosophy to Billboard: “My dream has always been to be — obviously not a rapper, but, like, to put out music in the way that a rapper does.” Which is to say not on a traditional tightly-controlled pop star rollout, but in the drip-drip-drip fashion of the streaming era, in which artists bombard listeners with music in rapid succession, barely leaving room to reflect. And yet the period leading up to the release of “Thank U, Next,” Grande’s fifth album, which was released on Friday, hasn’t been quite that radical. There were singles, and videos, and now an album — nothing to fear here. The latest single is “Break Up With Your Boyfriend, I’m Bored,” a satisfying thumper with an astral-trap beat and Grande deciding that, in fact, she’d like to be the other kind of rapper as well. Not to say that she’s purely rapping on this song, but rather that rapping as an act has melted so thoroughly that the chasm between what it currently is and what Grande is doing here isn’t very vast. So much so that when she belts out a few lines near the song’s end it sounds like someone else altogether has arrived.

(Grande spends the whole video stalking a couple made up of a handsome young man and a Grande doppelgänger. She keeps urging them to split, up until she inserts herself between them, And then she chooses … herself.) JON CARAMANICA

“We don’t touch anymore/But we talk all the time so it’s fine,” sings Amber Bain, who records her solo, intricately produced pop as the Japanese House. She’s assessing the later stages of a romance: “Somebody tell me what I want/‘cause I keep on changing my mind.” She surrounds herself with synthesizers and vocal harmonies that can reflect the dizzying swirl of remembered infatuation or the steady trudge of everyday partnership; when the song ends, she still hasn’t figured things out. PARELES

How sensitive can a guy be? This sensitive. “Can’t we just talk/figure out where we’re going?,” Khalid pleads. There’s a tryst, with “flowers in the room,” but also a reckoning; whatever happens will have to be consensual. The loop has hi-hat sounds and syncopated synthesizers — from Disclosure — as Khalid hops between tenor and falsetto. The result of this negotiation isn’t guaranteed. PARELES

This ghostly whisper of a waltz is from “Quiet Signs,” the new album by Jessica Pratt. Like the rest of the album, the backup is minimal — acoustic guitar picking, a few notes from a piano — and the production’s low-fi hiss makes Pratt’s soprano even wispier. She sings about singing in “Crossing,” with words dissolving into wordless syllables, turning into an elusive lullaby. PARELES

Bassekou Kouyate, from Mali, plays the ngoni, a West African lute that’s a likely ancestor of the banjo, and he leads Ngoni Ba, featuring ngonis of various sizes down to a bass ngoni. “Miri” (“Dream”), the title track of his new album, is an instrumental reverie based, the liner notes say, on worries about Mali’s Islamist insurgency and about climate change. Its fingerpicked vamp carries insistent minor-key melodies and a little bit of ngoni shredding. PARELES

A New Orleans jazz band — clarinet, trombone, her own banjo — backs Leyla McCalla in the title song of her new album. The wryly old-fashioned slow-drag setting belies the hardheaded economic realism of “The Capitalist Blues,” a theme statement for an album full of songs about trying to get by in a ruthlessly market-based world. “I am swimming in an ocean of sharks,” McCalla sings, graceful but resigned. PARELES

More cheerily melodic tragedy from the Savannah, Ga., rapper Quando Rondo, who is signed to the imprint of the Baton Rouge realist YoungBoy Never Broke Again. In its production, “Gun Powder” has some of the lighthearted toughness of the early T.I./Young Jeezy era, but the real amusement is in how Quando Rondo almost smirk-shrugs his way through some very bitter words: “Send a text to all the opps like, yeah, we want all the smoke/We up by 6, they down by 2, they need to go fix the scope.” CARAMANICA

With the slow, misty grace of a requiem, “Memories of Nanzenji” finds the keyboardist and crossover-jazz guru Mark de Clive-Lowe reflecting on a visit to the historic temple and gardens in Kyoto, Japan. Featuring a quintet that includes the whirling alto saxophone of Josh Johnson, this tune appears on “Heritage,” a new album out on Friday. It was largely recorded during a run of shows at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles, then de Clive-Lowe augmented the recordings in the studio, adding layers of synthesizer and more. RUSSONELLO

I’m old enough to remember when 5 Seconds of Summer was a punk band! I’m old enough to remember when the Chainsmokers were … well, not quite good, but not this bad! If you are less old than I am, here is a song to order Sweetgreen to. CARAMANICA

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