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, Demi Lovato and Marshmello team up to inspire, YoungBoy Never Broke Again is never gone for long, and Usher serves a throwback slice of R&B-pop. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Song With a Simple Yet Important (and Timely) Message:
Demi Lovato & Marshmello, “OK Not To Be OK”
Demi Lovato has long used her pop platform to spread awareness on mental health issues — through self-examination in her songwriting, amplifying useful resources and information to her fans, and everything in between. Following the personally revealing “I Love Me,” Lovato has teamed up with Marshmello for a song aimed to encourage outreach during National Suicide Prevention Month, but that also functions as a handy reminder during a uniquely stressful, isolating year for everyone. “When you’re down and you feel ashamed / It’s okay not to be okay,” Lovato sings on the chorus, Marshmello’s disco-inflected production serving as an engaging setting for Lovato’s words of wisdom and hope.
The Album That Continues An Artist’s Positive Momentum:
YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Top
In the past 12 months, Baton Rouge native YoungBoy Never Broke Again has collected two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart (AI YoungBoy 2 and 38 Baby 2), as well as another No. 2-peaking release (Still Flexin, Still Steppin); the fact that he’s already back with a new, 21-song project would be mind-boggling to anyone not paying attention to the ultra-prolific MC’s recent rise. Yet the startling thing about Top is how consistent, and consistently revealing, it is: YoungBoy, a complicated figure with an intoxicating flow and past legal issues, spends much of the project reflecting on his time in the streets, his various struggles and the musical style that has saved him. And for an artist still lacking a crossover hit, “My Window,” a collaboration with Lil Wayne, might just be it.
The Song That Reminds The R&B Youngsters Who’s Still Got It:
Usher, “Bad Habits”
Usher’s new single “Bad Habits” arrives during the same week that the multiplatinum artist announced an upcoming Las Vegas residency, which will undoubtedly showcase a hits-packed career. Add another great one into that setlist: “Bad Habits” finds an artist who no longer needs to prove his radio mettle sounding as effervescent as some of his career peaks, with a hypnotic refrain — “I love love, I’m just bad at it / I just can’t escape all of these bad habits,” Usher admits — and the type of slinky beat that would have slayed in the mid-90s. Following the affecting social justice anthem “I Cry,” “Bad Habits” is the sound of Usher back in his bag of tricks, continuing a career that can stacked against any pop music titan.
The Song To Play Your Romantic Partner Mid-Quarantine:
David Guetta & Sia, “Let’s Love”
“During this time of isolation, I’ve been incredibly inspired to release music that has an uplifting energy,” David Guetta said of his new Sia collaboration in a press statement. After linking up for “Titanium,” one of the biggest hits of both of their careers, Guetta and Sia have reunited to spread joy during a tumultuous time: “Let’s Love” is an ‘80s-inspired workout with the type of lyrics that could be easily refashioned into motivational catchphrases. Sia sells the encouragement, though, with her sturdy voice declaring “This too shall pass!,” and anchoring the track as Guetta’s synths sprint alongside her. Fire this one up on your workout playlist, or present it to your significant other as a reminder that, don’t worry, quarantine won’t last forever.
The Song That Will Have You Grabbing a Cup To Toast:
Florida Georgia Line, “Long Live”
These are among the things that the Florida Georgia Line guys honor with a raised glass on the chorus of “Long Live”: small town folks, hard workers, dirt roads, longneck bottles, women in cut-up jeans, and of course, “nights like these.” The latest from FGL is a celebration of a simple way of life, but it’s a relatable anthem for anyone who’s stayed up too late toasting life’s minor miracles, regardless of one’s affinity for “that old-school Haggard and Hank.” Give credit to Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard for blending the authentic details of their upbringing with a sense of universal wonder — it’s what Florida Georgia Line has always done, and no doubt they’ll find more success with their latest sing-along.
The Song That Will Inspire a Dance Break In Your Living Room:
Major Lazer & Mr Eazi feat. Nicki Minaj & K4MO, “Oh My Gawd”
Major Lazer has spent the majority of its career trying to make the world feel a little less big: roaming the planet to bring disparate styles together, Diplo and co. have been able to demonstrate that killer rhythms can snap language barriers. That’s once again evident on “Oh My Gawd,” in which they recruit Nigerian superstar Mr Eazi, American hip-hop queen Nicki Minaj and U.K.-based newcomer K4MO and request that they throw a three-minute dancehall party. The result of the artist pile-up is seamless enough, with Minaj barging in midway through to deliver an efficient guest verse in patois, while Mr Eazi takes center stage to extend a fruitful professional year.
The Album That’s Captivating In Its Rage:
Marilyn Manson, We Are Chaos
Marilyn Manson has spent the better part of the past decade working towards an album like We Are Chaos, sublimating the thrills of his late-90s heyday into a product that displays his songwriting panache without defanging his image. There is anger and shock within We Are Chaos, but Manson doesn’t let them spin in place: songs like the title track and new single “Don’t Chase The Dead” pair his lyrical wit (“In the end we all end up in a garbage dump / but I’ll still be here, holding your hand,” he sings) with soaring melodies, while “Infinite Darkness” is the type of atmospheric dread that made Manson a star. Released close to the 20-year anniversary of his seminal Holy Wood album, Manson has made another pitch-black keeper.
The Song With a Deliciously Familiar Melody:
Daddy Yankee, Anuel AA & Kendo Kaponi, “Don Don”
On your first listen to the new reggaeton summit “Don Don,” you may ask yourself, “…Is that a Sisqo interpolation?” Indeed, Daddy Yankee — who scored a hit last year with “Con Calma,” which revived “Informer” and featured Snow himself — has once again turned back time on “Don Don,” in which his pal Anuel AA sings the “Thong Song” melody during the chorus. It’s a nifty gimmick, but “Don Don” is more beguiling than its familiar hook: Daddy Yankee is a stick of dynamite on the track, his flow compact and rewarding (keep your ears peeled for a nod to the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance), and his intensity balancing out Anuel’s suave demeanor as they both invite listeners to the dance floor in their own way.