First Stream: New Music From Post Malone, Camila Cabello, Louis Tomlinson & More

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, Post Malone enlists a slew of A-listers for his long-awaited new album, Camila Cabello begins a bold new chapter and Louis Tomlinson arrives as a full-fledged solo artist. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below: 

The Album With (Probably) a Handful of Soon-To-Be Smash Singles:  
Post Malone, Hollywood’s Bleeding 

It’s hard to imagine Post Malone’s third album, Hollywood’s Bleeding, not becoming a commercial behemoth, especially considering the type of Midas-touch run the Texas rapper has been on over the past two years. And with all of that success comes increased confidence: Post’s follow-up to last year’s BeerBongs & Bentleys is marked by his willingness to not only experiment, but to zoom in on and flaunt his skills as a trap-beat crooner. Recent single “Circles” trades in the stuttering beats for a straightforward alt-rock arrangement; elsewhere, Post turns “Saint-Tropez” into his latest rich-but-sad-but-yes-very-rich anthem, and on “Take What You Want,” Ozzy Osbourne delivers the hook... and soon after, Post belts out the same hook, and outdoes the metal legend. Instead of serving as a stark departure from what made Post Malone a superstar, Hollywood’s Bleeding doubles down on his core appeal, and should be huge because of it.

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The Songs That Tease a Daring New Era:
Camila Cabello, “Liar” & “Shameless”

Camila Cabello does not need to release a pair of ambitious new tracks at this moment -- after all, “Señorita,” her duet with Shawn Mendes, is one of the biggest songs in the country and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Yet her Romance project has launched with a pair of tracks, “Liar” and “Shameless,” that prod Cabello’s many fans into following her into compelling new territory. “Shameless” is colored by electro-rock undertones and a pleading post-chorus, while “Liar” combines subtle flamenco influences with interpolations of both Ace of Base and Lionel Richie (!). In particular, “Liar” demonstrates Cabello’s rapid growth as a vocalist: amidst its many appealing moments, the song peaks when Cabello winds around the line, “What if, you kiss me? And what if, I like it?,” in a trembling falsetto.

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The Song That Lets a Pop Star Rock Out:
Louis Tomlinson, “Kill My Mind”

Every member of One Direction has enjoyed an impressive amount of success since going solo, and that includes Louis Tomlinson, who’s thus far focused on out-of-the-box collaborations while forgoing a proper project. Perhaps “Kill My Mind,” which follows the pop balladry of “Two of Us,” is what he’s been working up towards: brash, swaggering and catchy as all hell, the single finds Tomlinson veering toward the garage-rock corner of contemporary guitar-driven pop, with a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Vines album. “Kill My Mind” feels like Tomlinson settling into a sound, and while it’s only one track, it’s a great fit.

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The EP To Play Outside Before The Weather Turns Cold:
Alessia Cara, This Summer EP

“Almost made me lose my cool for a minute,” Alessia Cara sings on “Like You,” “almost forgot who I am for a minute.” The line is ostensibly about a frustrating romantic scenario, but it could also reflect Cara’s professional state: after breaking through with hits like “Here” and “Scars to Your Beautiful,” the best new artist Grammy winner turned heavy-handed on her 15-track sophomore LP The Pains of Growing. The new EP This Summer is precisely the type of course correction that fans should lap up: six airy, relaxed tracks that refocus Cara’s attention toward universal songwriting and the natural warmth of her voice. Toss “What’s On Your Mind?,” “October” or any of these top-notch tracks onto your favorite 2019 playlist, and you won’t regret it.

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The Song With The Most Fascinating Lyrical Concept:
Grimes & I_o, “Violence”

Before she began rewriting the rules of modern pop structure, Grimes’ early music was often defined by its inscrutability, with her voice gently floating across arrangements without committing to too many syllables. “Violence,” a new track with producer I_o, harkens back to those days while simultaneously presenting the singer-songwriter’s current musings on climate change. “You feed off hurting me,” she sings, describing an abusive relationship from the perspective of our planet; eschewing any oversized hooks a la “Flesh Without Blood” or her recent industrial banger “We Appreciate Power,” the affecting “Violence” lets Grimes inhabit a wounded persona, often repeating words to try and make sense of them.

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The Video That Tries To Imagine a Distant Future, and a Phenom’s Next Act:
Lil Nas X, “Panini”

With “Panini,” Lil Nas X has effectively attempted the high-wire act of following up the longest-leading Hot 100 No. 1 single of all time. A departure in style, but not in imaginative verve, from “Old Town Road,” “Panini” now receives a futuristic music video that builds upon Lil Nas X’s recent VMAs performance, down to the costumes and choreography. And while seeing the rapper as a hologram is not mind-blowing as a technical achievement, the clip does put his charisma front and center, as it should be.

The Album Whose Lyrics You’ll Want To Re-Read and Memorize:
The Highwomen, The Highwomen

The idea of the Highwomen sounds like a country-music fever dream: Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby, trading insights and coming together in impeccable harmony? And yet the supergroup is here, with a self-titled album that expertly finds the balance between spotlighting individual talent and offering a unified message. The opener “Highwomen,” in which backstories are unflinchingly shared, is moving enough, while the sprawling “Old Soul” features some quietly overpowering words about patience and expectation. Every one of the Highwomen shines, although Hemby in particular is a revelation singing alongside these well-known powerhouses.

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The Album In Which ‘High-Concept’ is An Understatement:
Melanie Martinez, K-12

Pop provocateur Melanie Martinez won a cult following with her dark, dazzling concept album Cry Baby, and follow-up K-12 — a new album that soundtracks a fantastical feature-length film of the same name, which Martinez directed — naturally ups the ante further. Although Martinez has used her ambition to define her career, her raw song craft should not be overlooked or underestimated: at its core, K-12 is an unapologetic discussion of the awkward, euphoric and terrifying experience of growing up. The wildly high mark that Martinez aims to hit is always impressive, but the intelligence and emotion baked into songs like “High School Sweethearts” and “Strawberry Shortcake” should grab the attention of those unaware of her greater narrative.

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The Song That Will Make You A Little Bit Braver:
Kelsea Ballerini, “Homecoming Queen?”

In a social media-obsessed world, it’s hard to express complicated emotion when you can quickly show off how happy and successful you are in a well-lit Instagram pic. Kelsea Ballerini gets this. On the sparse and thoughtful “Homecoming Queen?,” she asks what would happen if we collectively became a bit more honest with how we present ourselves — “Even the homecoming queen cries,” after all — in a way that never feels cloying or overly preachy. Ballerini has been a steady presence in country-pop, and with her new single, her songwriting sharpens, offering a strong mix of incisive detail and relatable proclamations.

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