The 40 Best Songs of 2024 (So Far)


Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs. After six months of listening, here’s what they have on repeat. (Note: It’s not a ranking, it’s a playlist.) Listen on Spotify and Apple Music.

Atop a mid-tempo beat that recalls the muffled retro-funk of Doja Cat’s smash “Say So,” Sabrina Carpenter plays the unbothered temptress with winking humor: “Say you can’t sleep, baby I know, that’s that me, espresso.” Make it a double — you’ve surely heard this one everywhere. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Following her worldwide 2023 hit “Water,” Tyla pulls away from temptation in “Safer,” harnessing the log-drum beat and sparse, subterranean bass lines of amapiano. Her choral call-and-response vocals carry South African tradition into the electronic wilderness of 21st-century romance. JON PARELES

One We Missed

At once strobe-lit and silky, Ariana Grande appropriately channels Robyn — the patron saint of crying in the club — on this nimbly sung, melancholic pop hit, a highlight from her bittersweet seventh album, “Eternal Sunshine.” ZOLADZ

One We Missed

Billie Eilish extols her own composure and skill at dissembling — holding back her unrequited love — in “The Greatest” from “Hit Me Hard and Soft.” Delicate picking accompanies her as she sings about how she “made it all look painless.” Then she shatters that composure, opening her voice from breathy to belting while the production goes widescreen with drums and choir. When the music quiets again, her furious restraint is as palpable as her regret. PARELES

Folky fingerpicking and new-agey thoughts about self-help make “Deeper Well” a gentle but firm rebuff. After musing on astrology and negative energy, Kacey Musgraves notes, “I’m saying goodbye to the people I feel/are real good at wasting my time.” In the next verses, she leaves behind marijuana and rises above the limits of her upbringing. There’s no rancor, no gloating, just added shimmery reverberations as she grows up and moves on. PARELES

In “Fire Excape,” Zsela croons what turns out to be a love song — but only eventually, after she notes, “There’s a fire in the ocean when the oil starts spilling.” The song takes shape over a lurching, start-stop beat, with some gaping silences, odd harmonic turns and sudden electronic surges, but amid the asymmetries Zsela proffers some husky reassurance: “We’ll get along quite fine, thank you.” PARELES

In a flex of genre-spanning musicianship that’s also a workaholic’s lament, Beyoncé recalls her past and doubles down on her ambition, singing, “Ain’t got time to waste, I got art to make.” The music is an arena-country crescendo, from acoustic-guitar strum to full-band impact topped by pedal-steel guitar. She’s not only claiming an expanded demographic base; she’s using her celebrity clout to force some doors open. PARELES

One We Missed

A virtuoso with both fingers and effects, the guitarist, songwriter and producer Mk.gee (Michael Todd Gordon) creates murky, contrapuntal tracks suffused with yearning and diffidence. In “Little Bit More,” from his album “Two Star & the Dream Police,” he promises, “Baby, take what you want” to the one who “opened the door.” A hopping six-beat guitar loop, a conversational bass line, high backup vocals peeking in here and there and occasional piano interjections conjure an elation that may not last. PARELES

“I can hold my arms wide open/but I need you to drive the nail,” St. Vincent sings in “Broken Man.” It’s a volcanic buildup of a song, from the sparsest ticking electronics to a hard-rock stomp to a full-scale pileup of guitars, drums and horns. PARELES

Over a hurtling beat and a chain of frantic, trilling, overdriven guitar riffs, the Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar insists that African leaders should work together and push back against foreign interests, to “Retake control of your resource-rich countries.” The band couldn’t sound more urgent. PARELES

One We Missed

Kim Gordon, 71, explores the common ground between no-wave cool and SoundCloud rap on this corrosive opening track from her second solo album, “The Collective.” Atop an abrasive, hypnotic beat, she recites a fictional tour packing list, contrasting the chaotic and banal with flair. You’ll never enunciate “Eckhaus Latta” the same way again. ZOLADZ

The zany electronic producer A.G. Cook turns a simple, hypnotically repeated Charli XCX refrain — “Brit, Brit, Brit, Brit, Brit, like Britpop” — into an alternate-universe national anthem. Blur and Oasis never did it quite like this. ZOLADZ

The London-based, Nigerian-rooted band Ibibio Sound Machine has evolved into a starkly efficient electro-funk group, delivering community-minded messages in English and the Nigerian language Ibibio. “Pull the Rope” deploys an octave-hopping bass line, video-game blips and eventually a horn section to propel a constructive chant: “Even though we’re eager to trigger/Let’s pull the rope, together we hope.” PARELES

The rising pop star Chappell Roan sends an ex-lover off with an eye roll on the wrenching “Good Luck, Babe!,” a synth-driven tune topped by her best Kate Bush. Roan imagines her former flame kissing “a hundred boys in bars” and eventually becoming a man’s dissatisfied wife in the aftermath of their affair. But ultimately, Roan chooses herself, singing with all her heart, “I just wanna love someone who calls me baby.” ZOLADZ

One We Missed

Dua Lipa’s album “Radical Optimism” cruises past heartaches, treating bad choices and failed romances as setbacks that might be painful, but not for too long. In “French Exit,” she decides to ghost a relationship that’s not working, comparing it to ducking out of a party early. The ingenious track, produced by Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) and the hyperpop pro Danny L Harle, stacks up syncopations — drums, acoustic guitar, flamenco handclaps, a little flute lick — behind her not-too-regretful voice. PARELES

Maggie Rogers admits her friends’ relationships don’t provide models for what she’s looking for: Sally’s getting married, Molly’s out partying every night. She’s after something more casual — but still lasting in its own way. “Love me till your next somebody,” Rogers sings to whomever’s listening. “And promise me that when it’s time to leave, don’t forget me.” ZOLADZ

Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield marvels at long-term love by admitting how much she tests it. “I let my mind run wild/Don’t know why I do it,” she sings, “But you just settle in like a song with no end.” The track is easygoing and countryish, and MJ Lenderman provides supportive harmony vocals and electric guitar. But the scratchy tension in Crutchfield’s voice betrays her continuing self-doubts. PARELES

Like the rest of her latest album, “Visions,” “Staring at the Wall” is a collaboration between Norah Jones and the producer and drummer Leon Michels. Between his backbeat and her twangy guitar, understated keyboards and reassuring vocal harmonies, it’s clear she’ll make it through her misgivings just fine. PARELES

One We Missed

The milky-voiced singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt brings her sepia-toned sensibility to this dreamy folk-pop tune, making it sound like a glowing portal to an alternate past. ZOLADZ

“I still don’t know where I am going/But I have joy in my heart,” the Colombian-Canadian songwriter Lido Pimienta sings in “He Venido al Mar” (“I Have Come to the Sea”). She’s making a journey toward renewal, with her guileless soprano sailing above a track that begins with sparse electronic chords and gathers layers of percussion and voices, assembling a cumbia and a community out of thin air. PARELES

This salvo in Kendrick Lamar’s feud with Drake starts with Lamar rapping quickly but calmly over a smooth-jazz backdrop, taunting, “I make music that electrify ’em, you make music that pacify ’em.” But after he warns, “Don’t tell no lie about me/And I won’t tell truths about you,” the track changes to a tolling, droning trap dirge and Lamar’s delivery becomes biting, nasal and percussive. He switches from flow to flow with an accelerating barrage of attacks, professional and personal, from recording deals to parenting skills: “cringe-worthy” is a milder one. PARELES

In snaking melodies atop shimmering club beats, Charli XCX pivots between cool-girl braggadocio and raw confessions of insecurity on her new album, “Brat.” “It’s so confusing sometimes to be a girl,” she sings on the chorus of one of its most vulnerable songs, which explores her ambivalent relationship with a certain unnamed pop star doppelgänger. Her unabashedly messy, run-on candor is especially refreshing. ZOLADZ

The Canadian songwriter and producer Saya Gray’s voice is wry and a little sleepy as she reconsiders a relationship, singing, “I bent over backwards so many times/I turned into a golden arch for you to walk through.” But her production is alert, hyper-detailed and surreally unpredictable, segueing among ticking electronics, syncopated indie-rock, spacey vocal chorales, distorted guitars and what might be a koto. She may be lonely, but she’s resourceful. PARELES

One We Missed

The laptop-wielding Japanese musician Hakushi Hasegawa delivers a manic demolition derby of a song with the hyperpop of “Departed.” Sweet vocal harmonies top a barrage of drums and sliding-pitch synthesizers; a brief respite midway through only makes the closing blitz sound more lightheartedly merciless. PARELES

“Musow Danse” (“Women’s Dance”) is the title track of the jubilant new album by Les Amazones d’Afrique — a Pan-African, proudly multilingual alliance of singers and songwriters carrying feminist messages to dance floors, like this chorus: “Rise up African woman!” PARELES

“I run away, ’cause I’m on precious time,” the British musician Nilüfer Yanya sings. In classic Yanya fashion, “Like I Say (I Runaway)” has an almost collagelike feel, reveling in contrasting textures and suddenly erupting into a blaze of guitar distortion on the chorus. ZOLADZ

The alt-pop singer Clairo yearns to be the object of just one person’s affection — “nothing more, nothing less,” she sings on a track that pairs her breathily muttered vocals with a persistent groove, resulting in a kind of strutting summer anthem for introverts. ZOLADZ

The music sounds absolutely joyful: major chords, a waltzing but flexible beat, a supportive backup choir reinforced by orchestral strings. But Angélica Garcia is singing, in Spanish, “What is the color of pain?” with vocal inflections that hint at both Latin pop and Indian ghazal. PARELES

“Mary Boone, Mary Boone, I hope you feel like loving someone soon,” Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend sings, name-checking a once-powerful art dealer who recently served a prison sentence for tax fraud. The song itself is a kind of musical mosaic, combining floating atmospherics that recall the band’s “Modern Vampires of the City” with breakbeats and a lush, heavenly choir. ZOLADZ

The arrangement is largely acoustic, yet there’s almost a trip-hop undertow to “Raat Ki Rani” (Urdu for “Queen of the Night”) by Arooj Aftab, the Grammy-winning, culture-fusing Pakistani singer. One piano note repeats throughout; Asian percussion supplies deep, deliberate syncopation; and Maeve Gilchrist’s harp swirls between verses. Aftab sings about allure and desire in a long-breathed melody suffused with melancholy poise. PARELES

Polyamory gets complicated in this yearning reggae duet. “Don’t be too quick to judge,” the Jamaican singer Lila Iké urges; H.E.R. counters, “You just keep lying to yourself.” Neither of them wanted to “lose a good thing just because,” but that’s all they agree on. The man in question never states his case. PARELES

Usher embraces South African amapiano, with a tinge of Nigerian Afrobeats, in “Ruin,” a track produced by Pheelz, a Nigerian songwriter who adds a rap verse. Mixing accusation, plaint and humblebrag, Usher croons, “You broke me and took your time with it/you gave me all these memories that I regret.” But he also makes clear he has options: “A different girl be on my line/Constantly be calling, every day I still decline.” PARELES

In “Fría” (“A Cold One”), the denials and excuses keep coming from Enrique Iglesias, singing, and Yotuel, rapping, over three chords and a perfectly infectious beat set up by lean percussion and rhythm guitar. “I only went out for a cold one,” Iglesias insists. “Your friends lied to you.” It’s so upbeat, they might get away with it. PARELES

Country and Mexican music have long been close neighbors across the Texas border. Here, the regional Mexican superstar Carin León welcomes the country singer Kane Brown for a bilingual duet that has León warning someone that no one will love her like him, while Brown proclaims, “Whatever you’re looking for in love/You know I’m the one.” It’s a lean, acoustic Mexican polka underpinned by a sousaphone. PARELES

Hello Mary, a three-woman New York City band, whipsaws through a raucous embrace of uncertainty that peaks with the drummer and singer Stella Wave screaming, “I don’t know! I don’t know!” But within less than three minutes the track also jumps amid spindly indie-rock guitar chords, a bruising one-note bass riff and an unexpected dip into folky picking joined by a plinking vibraphone — all while making a waltz sound feral. PARELES

Pearl Jam’s LP “Dark Matter” reinforces the band’s longtime strengths: ferocious hard-rock riffs, neo-psychedelic guitar tangles and Eddie Vedder’s urgent moral compass. “React, Respond” hurtles ahead, with guitars blasting in unison and then ricocheting in stereo, as Vedder calls for unified, purposeful action, insisting, “We could be fighting together/Instead of fighting ourselves.” PARELES

Willow embraces her outsize emotions in the full-tilt finale of her new album, “Empathogen,” which veers from her old pop-punk into jazz and prog-rock. Her voice sails over choppy piano chords as she announces her “big feelings,” and when she sings, “Yes, I have problems, problems,” she turns “problems” into a six-syllable arpeggio. PARELES

​​Julia Holter displays a light touch on the celestial shape-shifter “Evening Mood.” Twinkling keys and Holter’s soft vocals are accompanied by subtle percussion which, in part, features the filtered sounds of her daughter’s heartbeat as recorded on an ultrasound. ZOLADZ

Somewhere between a hymn and a sea chantey, “All in Good Time” has Sam Beam’s earnest tenor and Fiona Apple’s huskiest alto trading lines about togetherness, estrangement, shared memories and lessons learned: “You wore my ring until it didn’t fit,” Apple observes. Piano chords ring and strings swell as the song’s two ex-partners harmonize to find, if not reconciliation, a mature sense of resignation. PARELES

Adrianne Lenker sings about connections — “They say when it’s right it’s right” — that can last or disappear: friendship, infatuation, romance, marriage, family. A six-beat web of picked, manipulated guitar tones are likely to bend, float in, stutter or vanish at any moment: as fragile and needed as the human companionship she longs for. PARELES



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