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Beyoncé’s Anthem for the Unique, and 10 More New Songs

Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, “Renaissance,” is a dazzling nightclub fantasia, a nimble, freewheeling journey through decades of dance music that feels almost Prince-like in its ambition. Sequenced seamlessly between the humid beats of “Cozy” and the immaculately produced disco throwback “Cuff It,” the Afrofuturistic “Alien Superstar” is a bold pop homage to ballroom culture and an embodiment of the escapist, self-celebratory ethos that courses throughout “Renaissance.” “Unique, that’s what you are,” Beyoncé intones from on high, “Stilettos kicking vintage crystal off the bar.” Grace Jones, who appears later in the album on the charismatic “Move,” certainly feels like a touchstone here, but in the album’s liner notes Beyoncé also shouts out the familial influence of her late Uncle Jonny, a queer Black man who, she writes, was “the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and the culture that serve as inspiration for this album.” The word unique becomes a motif throughout “Alien Superstar,” and in the song’s outro, a sampled speech from Barbara Ann Teer, the founder of Harlem’s National Black Theater, drives the point home, resonantly: “We dress a certain way, we walk a certain way, we talk a certain way, we paint a certain way, we make love a certain way. All of these things we do in a different, unique, specific way that is personally ours.” By the end of this song, it goes without saying: Same for Beyoncé. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Rosalía sounds aggressively unbothered on the studio version of “Despechá,” a fan favorite she’s been playing live on her Motomami World Tour. Influenced by Dominican merengue, “Despechá” is a quintessential summer jam, built around a buoyant piano riff and an insistent beat. There’s a current of defiance driving Rosalía’s vocals, though, as she attempts to shake off the memory of a disappointing lover on the dance floor: “Baby, no me llames,” she begins (“Baby, don’t call me). “Que yo estoy ocupá olvidando tus males” (“I’m busy forgetting your ills”). ZOLADZ

The music of Meg Remy’s ever-evolving project U.S. Girls has rarely sounded as sleek as it does on the synth-pop “So Typically Now,” which makes the satirical bite of its lyrics that much more surprising. “Brooklyn’s dead, and Kingston is booming,” Remy vamps on this cheeky critique of pandemic-era exodus, gentrification and rising housing costs. A thumping beat and a glossy sheen that’s somewhere between Robyn and Kylie Minogue provides the foundation for Remy’s social commentary, while sky-high backing vocals from Kyle Kidd take the track to the next level. “Gotta sell all my best,” Remy sings archly, “to buy more, not less.” ZOLADZ

Orchestral anthem? Dance-floor thumper? Fingerpicked folk-pop ditty? Hyperpop twitcher? Choral affirmation? Rina Sawayama chooses all of the above on “Hold the Girl,” a vow to reconnect with her younger self — “Reach inside and hold her close/I won’t leave you on your own” — that flits from style to style, cheerfully claiming every one. JON PARELES

Pandemic malaise and endurance are the foundation of “All Masks,” which looks back on years of “all masks, no smiles.” Over a murky, oozy track with synthesizer chords that climb patiently only to fall back to where they started, Masego sings about “Looking like you’re in disguise every day/Breathing my own breath.” “All Masks” comes from an expanded version of “Black Radio III” due this fall, continuing the keyboardist Robert Glasper’s decade-long series of “Black Radio” albums that merge R&B, hip-hop and jazz. A pensive, darting piano improvisation near the end of the song is a whiff of possibility amid the constraints. PARELES

“There Were Bells” is a threnody for planetary extinction from Brian Eno’s coming album, “Foreverandevernomore.” The LP, he has said, is about “our narrowing, precarious future,” and it returns to songs with lyrics and vocals after more than a decade of primarily instrumental and ambient works. “There Were Bells” begins with birdsong and floating, glimmering sustained tones. Eno croons, in what could be a lullaby or a dirge, about natural beauty, but then human destruction ensues; as the track deepens, darkens and thunders, he observes “storms and floods of blood,” until no one can escape: “In the end they all went the same way,” he sings, leaving an echoey void. PARELES

Addy Harris, who records as Rat Tally, faces chronic depression in the elegantly heartsick “Prettier”: “Sorry, I’ve just been down for the past decade,” she sings, over fingerpicked guitar. “I always did think I’m prettier when I’m unhappy/So do you,” she adds, as synthesizers bubble up behind her. “When I drop, I plummet,” she sings — examining herself with cool compassion, wondering what could change. PARELES

Plains is a new group formed by Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and the underrated singer-songwriter Jess Williamson — two Southern-born musicians who began their careers in the indie-rock world but whose more recent albums have reconnected with their country roots. Crutchfield and Williamson’s voices blend gorgeously on Plains’ hard-driving debut single “Problem With It,” which will appear on the forthcoming album “I Walked With You a Ways.” Crutchfield’s smoky twang takes center stage on the verses, but Williamson’s harmonies flesh out the chorus so that the lines land like bold, self-assured mantras: “If you can’t do better than that, babe, I got a problem with it.” ZOLADZ

Amaarae, from Ghana, has an airborne, Auto-Tuned soprano in “A Body, a Coffin,” from an EP called “Wakanda Forever Prologue” that starts the rollout for the movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” A crisp, staccato Afrobeats rhythm track, a little flute lick and a swarm of now-you-hear-them, now-you-don’t computer-manipulated voices back her as she sings about facing deadly odds: “You was in danger/I needed a savior.” The track ends, in Marvel Cinematic Universe fashion, as a cliffhanger. PARELES

Palm — formerly an indie-rock band that brandished jittery, asymmetrical, tangled guitars — has used its four years between albums to learn electronic instruments. “Feathers,” from an album due in October, reveals the band’s new mastery with a clanging, lurching, meter-shifting song that enjoys programmed, multitracked precision even as Eve Alpert sings about spontaneity. “Imma make it up as I go,” she lilts, and for all its premeditation, the song swings. PARELES

Bobby Krlic, who usually records as the Haxan Cloak, has composed the score for a new Amazon series, “Paper Girls,” and “KJ’s Discovery” is from its soundtrack album. It’s one-and-a-half minutes of aggressive six-beat and four-beat propulsion: drums and gongs interwoven with electronic blips and throbs, like an ominous, time-warped gamelan. PARELES



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