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Lizzo’s duet with a legend leads off this week’s mix of necessary new music

Lizzo & Missy Elliott

Lizzo & Missy Elliott Star Tribune/Associated Press

Another advance track from Lizzo’s impending full-length, an amygdala-levelling candy-coated treat from a Japanese pop band, Arizona’s best rap crew, an Australian indie expat duo’s return, a Grimes “demo,” and some grimy yet Day-Glo EDM—these are the week’s best new songs.

Lizzo feat. Missy Elliott “Tempo”

We knew this was coming, but we didn’t know this was coming. The nasty guitar intro that has zilch to do with what follows is classic Missy, a flourish to announce that we are in the presence of giddy ‘n’ jiggly greatness, a legend who was thicc before it was chic. Over an Oak hook that sounds like a music box tumbling down a staircase follows, Lizzo boasts “my ass is not an accessory” then repeats the last word as “ass-essory,” and the titular tempo revs to offer more butts per minute than anything you’ll shake it to this year.

Chai “I’m Me”

I’m too far removed from the culture this Japanese quartet is reportedly challenging (ironizing? deconstructing?) to (yet?) fully appreciate the subtleties of their Pitchfork-acclaimed full-length, Punk. But when “I’m Me” injects its industrial-strength artificial sweeteners directly into my mainline, my brain’s pleasure sensors topple into the red in a way even the most glossily superficial U.S. pop hasn’t managed in years.

Injury Reserve feat. Aminé “Jailbreak the Tesla”

You want criminal-minded rap? Ritchie with a T’s verse about how he hacked his iPod Touch for illegal downloading purposes is so detailed it might be admissible in court, then Aminé cruises in, just along for the ride, to boast that Grimes’ll voice his GPS, all over a track that owes more to PC music than trap.

An Horse “This Is a Song”

Hey, I remember this band. Maybe you do too. Pair of Aussies who later decamped to North America and disappeared for six years before returning last year with a new track, “Get Out Somehow.” Kate Cooper’s still got the declamatory style and forthright lyrics that add up to credibility as she declares victory over some indeterminate foe (“We are OK now/We made it through somehow”) and her no-less-declamatory-and-forthright guitar strokes click with Damon Cox’s drumming for a mood that’s triumphant but never power-hungry. There’s an album coming out in May that I will listen to and, if all goes well, tell you to listen to too. Welcome back.

Grimes “Pretty Dark (Demo)”

Look, I’m sorry your imaginary internet girlfriend went all reverse Norma Rae after hooking up with the compulsively bad tweeter who sent a car into space. But I’m not surprised: From the start Claire Boucher struck me as one of those gifted, charismatic weirdos whose ability to manipulate sound and imagery in intriguing contexts far outpaced their ability to make sense of it all—in other words, the sort of clever fool who’s kept pop music on its toes ever since the Beatles made the turf safe for art students. “Pretty Dark” supposedly hails from Grimes’ just announced augmented-reality musical, not from her also-just-announced anthropomorphic climate-change concept-album (Jesus, Claire, chill), so she has deemed it “NOT OFFICIAL GRIMES MUSIC,” which reminds me of Michael Scott declaring “BANKRUPTCY!” or those YouTube tributes that are misguidely tagged “NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.” But as a song, to use a quaint 20th century term, “Pretty Dark” is a charmer, with Grimes’ Betty- Boop-as-anime-goblin voice relating a sharp lyric about how violently heart-wrenching it is to be disproportionately in love.

Flume & HWLS feat. Slowthai “High Beams”

The pop-friendly Australian EDM producer’s typically colorful new mixtape, Hi This Is Flume, strikes me as a spread of paint swatches rather than a finished portrait. But Dizzee Rascal soundalike Slowthai’s street-urchin flow adds focus to a track that filters U.K. grime through trap, all the better to highlight its finest moment: an electronic harp tweaked past exotica into absurdia.

Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2019 playlist.