Miley Cyrus Reserves the Right to Grow, and 10 More New Songs

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.

Miley Cyrus, ‘Used to Be Young’

“You say I used to be wild, I say I used to be young,” Miley Cyrus sings on the muted, introspective new ballad “Used to Be Young.” The timing of the single’s release is canny: Cyrus gave her infamous, twerk-seen-’round-the-world MTV Video Music Awards performance 10 years ago on Friday. Cyrus, now 30, isn’t chiding her younger self or expressing regrets here, though — “I know I used to be crazy, messed up, but God was it fun,” she sings with an audible grin — so much as she is asserting her right to grow and change. Though “Used to Be Young” starts out quiet, it gradually builds in intensity, culminating in a finale that allows Cyrus to showcase the full power of her grainy drawl. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Al Green, ‘Perfect Day’

The magnificently idiosyncratic soul singer Al Green has re-emerged singing “Perfect Day,” a song from 1972 by — of all people — Lou Reed. Reed’s original had a disquieting undertone, warning “You’re going to reap just what you sow.” But Green’s remake — backed by musicians from his 1970s Hi Rhythm Section — trades any misgivings for romance, and the same line becomes a promise of mutual bliss. JON PARELES

Zach Bryan featuring Kacey Musgraves, ‘I Remember Everything’

This wrenching highlight from Zach Bryan’s new self-titled album is a he-said/she-said account of a failed, whiskey-soaked romance, set to a forlorn chord progression. “A cold shoulder at closing time, you were begging me to stay ’til the sun rose,” Bryan sings in his aching croak, before Kacey Musgraves enters with a pointed question: “You’re drinking everything to ease your mind, but when the hell are you gonna ease mine?” ZOLADZ

L’Rain, ‘Pet Rock’

“Why would you go without me?” L’Rain — the songwriter and musician Taja Cheek — wonders in “Pet Rock,” a turbulent song about unwanted solitude. Cascading guitars and shifty-meter drumbeats give the music an unpredictable, almost tidal motion that ebbs and flows with all the lyrics’ unanswered questions. PARELES

Selena Gomez, ‘Single Soon’

“I know he’ll be a mess when I break the news/but I’ll be single soon,” Selena Gomez exults in the ultra-smiley “Single Soon.” It’s a triumphal march about all the prerogatives of moving on — “I’m gonna do what I wanna do” — with giggles in the backup track as she decides it’s “Time to try another one.” Like Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” it celebrates the choices ahead. PARELES

Prince, ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

The teaser for the next much-expanded Prince reissue — “Diamonds and Pearls,” due Oct. 27 — is a falsetto funk tune about a woman with a mysterious but alluring occupation. “Some call it a curse, some call it sweet salvation/No one can deny the stimulation,” Prince sings over a skulking synth-bass line. The lyrics stay ambiguous, but the groove tells its own sensual story. PARELES

Margo Price, ‘Strays’

Margo Price released her album “Strays” in January, but its title track arrives this week in the rollout of “Strays II,” a sequel she’s releasing a few songs at a time. In “Strays,” she sings about being young, broke and ferally in love back in January 2003, with a galloping beat and pounding piano chords that suggests the E Street Band visiting Nashville. The memories sound victorious. PARELES

Mon Laferte, ‘Tenochtitlán’

The Chilean songwriter Mon Laferte sings about a woman shamed for her pregnancy in “Tenochtitlán,” comparing her to the Virgin Mary. In a track that melds the retro and futuristic, she overlays a trip-hop bass undertow with lushly dramatic strings, a flamenco-tinged guitar solo and a passage of pitch-shifted vocals, while she urges, “Beautiful one, cry no more.” PARELES

Luciana Souza & Trio Corrente, ‘Bem Que Te Avisei’

The new album from Luciana Souza and Trio Corrente, “Cometa” is a celebration of Brazil’s classic songbook, with covers of songs by Dorival Caymmi and Antonio Carlos Jobim alongside lively originals written in the spirit of tradition. Souza contributes a composition, “Bem Que Te Avisei” (“Well, I Warned You”), an up-tempo samba in which she admonishes a suitor not to chase someone unless he’s interested in committing. The piece comes fully alive midway through, when she sings a verse accompanied by just Paulo Paulelli’s bass and Edu Ribeiro’s light percussion, and achieves elevation at the end, as Souza’s wordless vocals double with the piano of Fabio Torres, briefly bringing to mind Flora Purim’s synergy with Chick Corea in Return to Forever. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Titanic, ‘Anónima’

The Guatemalan songwriter Mabe Fratti and the Venezuelan composer Hector Tosta, who bills himself as I la Católica, have collaborated as Titanic, with an album due in October. In “Anónima” (“Anonymous”), Fratti’s cello grunts rhythmic double-stops as she sings about persistent, troubling thoughts, surrounded by clusters of piano notes and increasingly brutal percussion. Her voice maintains its equanimity, but her distorted cello finally lashes out. PARELES

Abiodun Oyewole, ‘Somebody Else’s Idea’

In 1968, the poet-activists Larry Neal and Amiri Baraka released “Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing,” a collection that would help to define the Black Arts Movement. The poet with the most works featured in its pages was Sun Ra: Although mostly known as the bandleader of the Arkestra, Ra was a philosopher and poet as much as he was a musician. That same year, a group of young poets came together in Harlem, dubbing themselves the Last Poets and helping to lay the groundwork for what would soon become hip-hop; Abiodun Oyewole was one of them. Those histories collide on “My Words Are Music: A Celebration of Sun Ra’s Poetry,” a new album on which various artists read Ra’s poems between spacey synthesizer interludes from Marshall Allen, the Arkestra’s current leader. On “Somebody Else’s Idea,” Oyewole delivers verses that Ra first recorded in the early 1970s, when the Last Poets were in their prime: “Somebody else’s idea of things to come/need not be the only way to vision the future,” he declares. RUSSONELLO

Jon Pareles has been The Times’s chief pop music critic since 1988. A musician, he has played in rock bands, jazz groups and classical ensembles. He majored in music at Yale University. More about Jon Pareles

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