Britney Spears and Elton John’s Mash-up, 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.

Elton John & Britney Spears, ‘Hold Me Closer’

By presenting Britney Spears’s first new music since the end of her conservatorship, Elton John adds newsiness to his already canny late-career playbook. As he did last year with Dua Lipa in “Cold Heart,” he has reclaimed hooks from his old songs over a plush disco track, then enlisted a headlining duet partner. “Hold Me Closer” — with choruses from “Tiny Dancer” and verses from “The One” — is produced by Andrew Watt with an echoey, nostalgic haze, floating into earshot and eventually dissolving like a mirage. In between, Spears and John mostly sing in unison, but she grabs just enough melismatic flourishes — and a distinctive “baby” — to make her presence known. JON PARELES

Rema & Selena Gomez, ‘Calm Down’

Exposure to new audiences, or colonialism? Let’s hope the lawyers worked it out. “Calm Down,” by the Nigerian singer Rema, has been an international hit — more than 100 million plays on Spotify — since February. It’s carried by a cunningly syncopated track that uses acoustic guitar and a synthesizer blip alongside Afrobeats drum programming. Now, Selena Gomez has wisely latched on to it, and she coos boasts — “My hips make you cry when I’m moving around you” — to Rema’s own seductions. The rhythm leads; the voices affirm. PARELES

Margo Price, ‘Been to the Mountain’

Margo Price contains multitudes on her rollicking new single “To the Mountain and Back”: “I’ve been a dancer, a saint, an assassin,” she sings with a hard-living swagger atop a chugging guitar riff. Perhaps representing a new sonic chapter for the Nashville singer-songwriter, “Mountain” hews closer to straight-ahead rock than her usual alt-country sound — there’s even a punky freakout in the middle of the song that allows her to show off the more guttural side of her voice. The striking, desert-hued music video finds Price exploring and embodying the many different aspects of her identity during a particularly potent ayahuasca trip. Embracing psychedelia may have allowed Kacey Musgraves to get spacier than ever, but here, Price sees it as an invitation to unleash her wildest side yet. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Julia Jacklin, ‘Be Careful With Yourself’

The Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin implores a loved one to take care on the sweetly cautious “Be Careful With Yourself,” the latest single from her third album, “Pre Pleasure,” which comes out Friday. In her conversational delivery, Jacklin offers a font of healthy and practical advice: Quit smoking, drive the speed limit and put away some money in case of an emergency because, as she admits, “I’m making plans for my future and I plan on you being in it.” It’s a tender sentiment, but the song crackles with an undercurrent of jangly, distorted guitar and palpable anxiety, as Jacklin frets that a love so pure is doomed to be lost. ZOLADZ

The National featuring Bon Iver, ‘Weird Goodbyes’

The National and Bon Iver — a.k.a. Justin Vernon — have long been close. Aaron Dessner has worked with both as songwriter, musician and producer. Their overlap is in stately songs with hymnlike chords, and that’s what “Weird Goodbyes” is: Matt Berninger of the National and Vernon sharing harmonies in lyrics about self-doubt. It’s glum and thoughtful and neatly crafted for both; it’s not particularly new, but it is substantial. PARELES

Michael Kiwanuka, ‘Beautiful Life’

A love song could hardly sound more desperate than “Beautiful Life,” a song Michael Kiwanuka first released in 2021 for the Covid documentary “Convergence: Courage in a Crisis.” With mournful vocals over descending chords, eventually joined by full orchestra and choir Kiwanuka sings about how love “rescued me from a nightmare.” Now he has re-upped the song with a grim video by Phillip Youmans that envisions a game of Russian roulette and makes life seem even more precious. PARELES

Noah Cyrus and Benjamin Gibbard, ‘Every Beginning Ends’

Here’s an unexpected collaboration that works: Noah Cyrus with, of all people, Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. “Every Beginning Ends” is a bleak folk-rock waltz about lovers growing estranged: “I can’t remember the last time you touched me,” he sings, in his plaintive high tenor, and she answers, “I can’t recall you making the move.” It’s matter-of-factly heartsick. PARELES

Nosaj Thing featuring Julianna Barwick, ‘Blue Hour’

Nosaj Thing — the electronic musician Jason Chung — conjures nothing less than rapture with the multilayered “Blue Hour.” Julianna Barwick sings forgiveness and “flying into bliss” in a track that swathes a brisk, double-time beat in edgeless, reverberating synthesizer chords, her voice answered by the raw tone of a viola, balancing the ethereal and the earthy. PARELES

Bitchin Bajas, ‘Amorpha’

Bitchin Bajas is the jokey name of a serious instrumental trio from Chicago that explores the possibilities of repetition where minimalism, psychedelia, jazz, dub and electronica overlap. “Amorpha” starts with plinking mallet percussion patterns that recall Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians,” but the 10-minute piece soon takes its own dizzying path, with undulating synthesizers, flickers of hyperspeed and slyly shifting meters behind its steady pulse. PARELES

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