First Stream: New Releases From Ariana Grande, Drake, Haim & More

Miller Mobley
Ariana Grande photographed Nov. 10 at Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles. 

Feeling overwhelmed by the new songs, albums and videos being unveiled today? You’re not alone. 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, Ariana Grande offers up a late summer-song entry, Drake revisits some fan-adored old tracks and the Haim sisters have some saxophone riffs ready. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:   

The Song That Will Become Your New Non-Committal Jam:
Ariana Grande & Social House, "Boyfriend"

“You ain’t my boyfriend, and I ain’t your girlfriend, but you don’t want me to see nobody else, and I don’t want you to see nobody.” So goes part of the chorus to Ariana Grande’s new elastic pop track, a lovably low-stakes ode to romantic attraction but resistance to traditional labels. “Boyfriend” marks Social House’s most high-profile single by far, although pop fans have heard the Pittsburgh duo in the past -- they co-produced Grande smashes “thank u, next” and “7 Rings,” among other tracks. Their ability to not get blown away by Grande’s vocal power here is impressive, as Mikey Foster glides over a line like “Damn, baby, I’m a train wreck, too” with screwball charm.

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The Album That Isn’t New Music, But Still Might Dominate Your New Music Friday:
Drake, Care Package

If you’re a Drake completist, Care Package is the perfect summer-Friday surprise gift, as a collection of fan-favorite loosies that had previously not been readily available on streaming services. Even for the non-obsessives, though, Care Package serves as a cogent reminder as to why, long before some of his biggest hits turned him into a global superstar, Drake was such a winning music personality. “Dreams Money Can Buy” and “Club Paradise,” both released leading up to his masterful 2011 sophomore album Take Care, detail the nagging insecurities Drizzy faced as he tried to keep rising; elsewhere, “Draft Day” is an ode to the impending stardom of Johnny Manziel, when such a thing still made sense to record. Part time capsule, part B-sides project, Care Package is certainly worth exploring even if you missed out on the long-burning fandom surrounding these records.

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The Album That Could Be The Birth of a New Star:
Clairo, Immunity

It’s easy to sustain viral fame when you’re supremely talented, and Clairo, whose lo-fi pop first blew up on social media, has made it clear that she’s far from a flash in the pan. Immunity, her debut album, charges forward with confident explorations of R&B and alt-rock, each powered by Claire Cottrill’s tender vocal approach and a knack for open-hearted songwriting. Growing alternative radio hit “Bags” remains the standout here, although “Sofia,” in which Clairo unwittingly falls for a girl friend (“But, oh my god, I think I'm in love with you”), demonstrates the potential of her more confessional storytelling. Clairo defies easy labels on Immunity -- part of the reason why it’s obvious that her voice will endure.

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The Song That Needs To Be Added To Your Seasonal Playlist Immediately:
HAIM, "Summer Girl"

The saxophone is going to be the immediate takeaway from “Summer Girl,” Haim’s first new single in two years; those warm horn blasts memorably break up the action and offer a new shade to the sister trio’s sound. Yet Danielle Haim’s careful, calming vocal take shouldn’t be discounted, as it rolls over chants of “I’m your summer girl” and words of fierce devotion. Written for producer (and Danielle Haim’s partner) Ariel Rechtshaid as a demo when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, “Summer Girl” has been revived as a light jacket that keeps you warm on a hazy Los Angeles evening. Rechtshaid’s health has improved, fortunately, and we’ve been bestowed with a radiant new Haim single.

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The Song That Lets a Reggaeton Star Flex His Muscles:
Nicky Jam feat. Sech, “Atrevete”

“We want to launch it at the peak of summer, so you can enjoy partying, in the club or on the beach," Nicky Jam says in a press release of “Atrevete,” the Latin superstar’s new team-up with Panamanian rapper Sech. Indeed, the new single sounds primed for multi-purpose summertime fun: although the tempo is slower than traditional club fare, the snappy production from Flow Music and sultry hook encourage movement. And Jam’s voice can effortlessly anchor a song like this — Sech admirably tries to keep up with his crooning, but Jam is simply too charismatic to get upstaged.

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The Album That Represents a (Potential) Country Contender at the Grammy Awards:
Tyler Childers, Country Squire

Three years ago, Sturgill Simpson released a third studio album that ultimately became his mainstream breakthrough and snagged the best country album trophy at the following year’s Grammys. Could a similar fate await Tyler Childers — whose excellent third album, Country Squire, happens to be produced by Simpson, a fellow Kentucky native? Regardless of its impending awards showing, Country Squire makes good on Childers’ promising early recordings, spinning quaint yarns around the hints of fragility in the singer-songwriter’s voice and surrounding them with lush string-led arrangements. Even if you’re not a country fan, Childers — operating at the peak of his powers here — is worth embracing.

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The Song That Ever-So-Slightly Improves On a Previously Released Jam:
Khalid feat. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, “Right Back”

This new remix of “Right Back,” a standout from Khalid’s Free Spirit album, is not revolutionary: the song is basically bequeathed a new verse from A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie at its top, and then plays out as it did before. That said, “Right Back” deserves some shine, and A Boogie’s contribution does add some definition to the construction of the song; having the hip-hop star drop some romantic knowledge (“When you get dressed up, you take hours / Baby girl, you know you can do whatever”) before Khalid’s warble arrives makes the song’s build-up toward its hook more exciting. Solo Khalid remains silky-smooth, but as this (and his many other collaborations) prove, he also benefits from some balance.

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The Album That Starts With a Genuine Rush:
Skillet, Victorious

As Skillet celebrates its 10th album release, the group’s legacy as one of this century’s biggest Christian hard-rock groups is more than secure. And yet John Cooper and co. still have some surprises up their sleeves. The beginning of Victorious — the sing-song pummeling of single “Legendary,” followed by the throttling groove of “You Ain’t Ready” — is one of the more intense runs in the band’s recording career, while the harmonies on the ballad “Terrify the Dark” aim for the inspirational and resoundingly succeed. Innovating a quarter-century into a career is never easy, but Skillet is still finding new corners of their well-trodden path to explore.

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The Song That’s The Musical Equivalent of a Late-Night Text:
Lauv & Anne-Marie, “Fuck, I’m Lonely”

Reaching back out to your ex in a moment of weakness and solitude is a tale as old as time, but Lauv and Anne-Marie have certainly given that emotional trope a 2019 facelift with their new duet. “Yeah, I still watch the shows you showed me,” Anne-Marie shrugs during her verse before preemptively apologizing for the too-honest texts her friends couldn’t save her from sending; meanwhile, Lauv sounds downright woeful as he chants the titular phrase in the chorus. Included on the 13 Reasons Why season 3 soundtrack, “Fuck, I’m Lonely” represents a cheeky, likable detour for a pair of pop artists on the rise.

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