Billboard’s First Stream serves as a handy guide to this Friday’s most essential releases — the key music that everyone will be talking about today, and that will be dominating playlists this weekend and beyond.
This week, Beyonce’s visual album contains a summer scorcher, Billie Eilish is looking ahead and Sam Smith shares their vision of “oasis” with a special guest. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Visual Album That Everyone Will Be Talking About:
Beyonce, Black Is King
This weekend, Beyonce fans have been gifted a new “visual album,” Black Is King, that serves as a companion to last year’s The Lion King: The Gift and is streaming exclusively on Disney+. And while the project is not brimming with previously unheard music from Queen Bey — just an extended version of “Black Parade” and a remix of “Find Your Way Back” — the latter deserves late-breaking summer-jam status, repositioning the original song’s production into something more combustible. Meanwhile, the visual above for “Already,” the previously released collaboration with Shatta Wale and Major Lazer, hints at the visual spectacle of the entire project. Fans of Beyonce (and popular music in general) need to soak in the full experience of Black Is King, on which one of the most daring visual artists of the century makes her voice heard.
The Song That Checks In On a Young Superstar:
Billie Eilish, “My Future”
Billie Eilish started the year by sweeping the Grammy Awards, releasing a Bond theme song… and then unexpectedly slowing down, with the coronavirus pandemic scrapping most of an expansive arena tour (as well as delaying that Bond film). What “My Future,” her first new music in five months and a gift to fans after a month of social media silence, allows Eilish to do is ensure the world that she’s doing just fine, both as a recent household name adjusting to fame and as an evolving songwriter always prepared to try new things. “Know I’m supposed to be unhappy without someone / But aren’t I someone?” Eilish asks after the song’s drums kick in, turning “My Future” into a positive self-affirmation after beginning as a lilting ballad. The new single bursts into a ray of sunshine, with Eilish’s voice blossoming in the warmth; on the personal new track, one of the brightest artists in the music industry sounds ready to embrace the light.
The Song That Will Have You In Your Feelings All Weekend Long:
Sam Smith feat. Burna Boy, “My Oasis”
Although the coronavirus pandemic delayed the release of Sam Smith’s highly anticipated third studio album, the veteran singer-songwriter has stayed busy, often by finding new ways to innovate their tried-and-true craft. The latest experiment is a mid-tempo love song that teams Smith up with Nigerian superstar Burna Boy, in a mash-up of styles that doesn’t make much sense on paper but is admirably pulled off. “My Oasis” finds Smith showcasing their full vocal range and delving into metaphors of devotion before making way for their co-star, whose flow is steeped in melancholy as he tries to match Smith’s tone. The unexpected pairing makes for a crackling interplay, and “My Oasis” successfully approaches a well-worn songwriting topic from two interesting angles.
The Song That Barbz Will Be Playing Nonstop for a While:
A$AP Ferg feat. Nicki Minaj & MadeInTYO, “Move Ya Hips”
“Already bodied ‘Plain Jane’ and we mobbin’ now,” Nicki Minaj announces on “Move Ya Hips,” a punchy new collaboration with A$AP Ferg and MadeInTYO; the team-up with Ferg follows their hit “Plain Jane” remix, but here Minaj sounds even more ferocious, dominating the new track’s short running time. “Move Ya Hips” is unfussy, with a straightforward hook provided by MadeInTYO and a sexually explicit check-in from Ferg, but as soon as Minaj barges in midway through the song receives a jolt of energy. Ten years after her breakthrough verse on Kanye West’s “Monster,” Minaj still has the ability to rearrange the molecules of a song with a flow that’s both bone-crushing and animated, and “Move Ya Hips” is another highlight in a career full of them.
The Song That’s Going To Sound Even Sweeter in an Arena:
Dan + Shay, “I Should Probably Go To Bed”
“I Should Probably Go To Bed” is country duo’s Dan + Shay’s latest single to capture an all-too-familiar feeling, this time the art of resisting that regrettable late-night text and simply waiting for a clear head to prevail in the morning. The major change to their formula, however, is in the arrangement: “I Should Probably Go To Bed” begins as a standard piano ballad, then explodes into a technicolor rocker, with epic percussion and powerhouse vocals clearly designed for maximum crowd-swaying. Dan + Shay have grown from humble love songs to more universal sing-alongs over the course of their career, and “I Should Probably Go To Bed” shows that the duo understands how to cater to a quickly growing crowd. Whenever the touring business re-opens, this is a song you’re going to need to experience.
The Album That Your Cool Older Sibling Will Have In Rotation:
Dominic Fike, What Could Possibly Go Wrong
Dominic Fike proved his cross-demo bonafides with “3 Nights,” a 2019 alternative hit with a sterling pop hook that hinted at an even bigger arrival in 2020. What Could Possibly Go Wrong, his official debut full-length, does include those winks at the mainstream — “Vampire,” the album’s second-longest track at a little over three minutes, combines pop, R&B, alt-rock and hip-hop in a handful of immediately digestible hooks — but as the album title suggests, Fike often prefers flying without a safety net and shrugging off the consequences. He’s shrugging off the Jimmy Kimmels of the world in a pop-rap flow on one song, “Cancel Me,” then sounds like he’s channeling Animal Collective on the next, “10x Stronger”; fortunately, Fike’s high-wire act never grows dull or overreaches, and as a result, What Could Possibly Go Wrong makes for one of the year’s most compelling proper introductions.
The Song That Aims At Every Hip-Hop Streaming Playlist:
NLE Choppa feat. Lil Baby, “Narrow Road”
Lil Baby is enjoying one of the most fruitful years of any hip-hop artist; meanwhile, NLE Choppa is still rising, a promising 17-year-old with a gruff delivery and a few minor hits that should have been bigger (see: “Walk Em Down,” his top-notch team-up with Roddy Ricch, and the relentless Polo G-Stunna 4 Vegas summit “Go Stupid”). “Narrow Road” represents Choppa’s latest attempt at a pop crossover, this time alongside the MC who’s most recently made that leap, and while Lil Baby sounds at ease in his observations on the track (“It’s a cold, cold world, and I was born in December,” he laments), his cohort goes for the jugular with an intense verse and a more melodic hook than he’s used to providing. If “Narrow Road” takes off, NLE Choppa could be on his way to following Lil Baby’s trajectory.
The Album That’s a Powerful New Chapter in a Storied Career:
Alanis Morissette, Such Pretty Forks In The Road
This year, Alanis Morissette celebrates the 25th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill, the 1995 blockbuster album that made her an international star, won the album of the year Grammy and now serves as the basis for a successful Broadway musical of the same name. Morissette was 21 when that album was released; now 46 and releasing her first new album since 2012, the singer-songwriter is as incisive as ever, still asking difficult questions and displaying her vulnerabilities while never betraying the strength of her voice. Morissette’s songwriting remains conversational and compact, whether addressing her kids on “Ablaze” or speaking about postpartum depression on “Diagnosis,” and when she really connects with a melody, as she does on the sardonic and stirring single “Reasons I Drink,” her return with new material feels more welcome than ever.