What to listen to now: Margo Price, Justin Bieber and Manu Dibango

Country artist Margo Price has returned with a new EP, "Weakness."
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A weekly round-up of must-hear music music, as chosen by the pop staff of The Times. This week’s picks include a new EP from Americana artist Margo Price, a coming reissue from Manu Dibango and Justin Bieber’s collaboration with producer BloodPop.

Margo Price “Weakness” (Third Man)

On the heels of an eventful 2016 in which she was named the Americana Music Assn.'s emerging artist of the year and made an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival with one of her heroes, Kris Kristofferson, the savvy singer-songwriter has put out this impressively diverse four-song EP en route to a follow-up to her acclaimed debut album, “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.”

She’s part of a building wave of astute alt-country artists such as Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Brandy Clark, and here she brings the feisty spirit and independence of Loretta Lynn fully forward into the 21st century.


The title track is a classic honky-tonk tune about coming face to face with one’s foibles. “Paper Cowboy” taps some of the wistfulness of a Gram Parsons aching waltz, then seamlessly segues into a thrillingly extended cowpunk excursion that elicits warm memories of L.A.'s late-great Rank and File. — Randy Lewis

Manu Dibango “Electric Africa” (Tidal Waves Music)

Dibango is responsible for one of the most joyful and universally recognizable chants in pop music: “Mama ko mama sa maka makossa,” from his 1972 single “Soul Makossa.”

You probably know it as the hook from Michael Jackson’s “ ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” and Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” (though Dibango wishes you didn’t; he sued each in 2009). However, if it’s your introduction to Dibango’s catalog, the next step in should be “Electric Africa,” set to be reissued late next month.

The lineup is a murderer’s row of American and African jazz, funk and Afro-beat players: Herbie Hancock, Bernie Worrell and Senegalese drummer Aïyb Dieng, as well as synth-wrangling genius Waliou Jacques Badarou. Its Afro-futurism and astounding playing reward deep, attentive listening. Its hypnotic funk would bump on any dance floor, just as it did when David Mancuso used it in his pioneering disco sets.-- August Brown

Justin Bieber & BloodPop, “Friends” (Republic)

No pop artist has collaborated as shrewdly — and with as much success — over the last two years as Bieber, who convinced the world he was a grown-up (or something like it) by teaming with Skrillex and Diplo in 2015 for the futuristic club jam “Where Are U Now.” Since then, there have been further adventures in EDM, including singles with DJ Snake and David Guetta, and of course the smash remix of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” in which Bieber sings in Spanish.

For his latest hook-up, with producer BloodPop, Bieber isn’t expanding his skill set so much as consolidating it: Co-written by Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter (who worked with BloodPop on Bieber’s chart-topping “Sorry”), “Friends” is basically a redo of the earlier track, with a wordless vocal hook over a throbbing dance groove. But in his strong, sensual singing, Bieber shows he’s uniquely capable among male pop stars of making an impression against such a busy arrangement. — Mikael Wood