2019 American Music Awards

First Stream: New Music From Luke Combs, Jonas Brothers, Karol G and Nicki Minaj & More

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, Luke Combs drops his country opus, Jonas Brothers welcome the holiday season, and Karol G receives an assist from Nicki Minaj. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

The Album That Shines Brightest in the Details:
Luke Combs, What You See Is What You Get

The artwork for Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get -- a cartoon image of the country star in red flannel and a baseball cap -- captures the same down-home sentiment as the album title. Combs is eager to convince you that he’s a no-frills everyman, and while the songs on his sophomore album abide by that point of view, that depiction also underplays the compelling songwriting that has set Combs on a pedestal in the country world. “Beer Never Broke My Heart” still rips as an anthem, but the quieter moments on the album -- the memory of a best friend’s wedding speech on “Does To Me,” the helpless search for a post-heartbreak drink on “Reasons” -- exemplify Combs’ gifts as a storyteller. What You See Is What You Get is the sound of an ascendant star, but one that’s by no means simple.

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The Song That Makes Us Count The Weeks Until The Holidays Arrive:
Jonas Brothers, “Like It's Christmas"

A massive No. 1 album debut, their first Hot 100 chart-topper, a best-selling arena tour, a moving documentary -- 2019 has been kind to the reformed Jonas Brothers, and “Like It’s Christmas” serves as a delectable cherry on top of that year-long run of success. The holiday tune is pretty much what you’d expect from the JoBros, as in, wholesome lyrics like “You make everyday feel like it’s Christmas” paired with clean harmonies, horns and hand claps. But with the air getting crisper and twinkling decorations starting to go up, Nick, Joe and Kevin can’t help but charm -- and force you to consider putting that holiday playlist into rotation a few weeks early.

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The Song To Add To Your House Party Playlist Immediately:
Karol G & Nicki Minaj, "Tusa"

Karol G has become one of the most in-demand collaborators in the Latin pop world, with her guest-packed project Ocean from earlier this year exhibiting her adeptness for seamlessly fitting into another artist’s world. “Tusa,” a new team-up with Nicki Minaj, lets Karol take center stage, however: Minaj fires off some quality bilingual barbs, but the pop singer dominates the track, and unfurls a hypnotic vocal hook that makes the whole affair worth revisiting. “Tusa” cannot be confined to one genre, but Karol G makes the most of one of her most high-profile artistic pairings.

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The Album That Every Indie Diehard Will Be Raving About For Months:
FKA twigs, Magdalene

As an artist, FKA twigs has long defied easy classification: to paint her as an R&B artist overlooks the daring explorations she’s made in pop, electronica, trip-hop and industrial music, while simply waving her away as “experimental” misses the piercing immediacy of some of her songs. However you interact with twigs’ artistry, Magdalene is an album that demands to be pored over. Her first full-length in five years astonishes on both a technical and emotional level: twigs’ voice, soaring and contorting and pleading in different parts, radiates confidence in its various forms, while a wide palette of producers -- Oneohtrix Point Never, Skrillex, Kenny Beats, Nicolas Jaar -- create a soundscape that’s at times lush and at other times unforgiving. FKA twigs will never fit neatly into a musical box, and that’s part of what makes her such a singular musical presence.

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The Song That Continues a Remarkable Winning Streak:
Rosalia, "A Palé"

While Rosalia’s spectacular 2018 album El Mal Querer is rightfully showing up on several best-of-decade lists, her string of singles from this year -- all distinct, all surprising in a way that most modern music simply is not -- shouldn’t be glossed over. If “A Palé” is her 2019 parting shot, she’s closed her artistic year on a dazzling note: following a graceful entrance, Rosalia breathes every syllable with a stark intensity, above chattering production that threatens to flare up but never explodes. At under two-and-a-half minutes, “A Palé” quickly creates a sense of sweaty tension, and Rosalia spends the track -- just like “Con Altura,” “Aute Cuture” and her Fucking Money Man songs -- reminding you that no one is as exciting as she is right now.

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The Song With The Very Spooky Post-Halloween Title:
Ozzy Osbourne, “Under The Graveyard”

Who knew Post Malone had the power to effectively bring back a rock and roll hall of famer? Two months after Ozzy Osbourne was featured on Post’s Hollywood’s Bleeding album -- and after the song “Take What You Want” crashed the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- the Ozzman is back with an epic song of his own, featuring Post collaborator Andrew Watt on guitar. “Under The Graveyard” is vintage Osbourne in both sound and thematic focus, and the metal legend is reinvigorated while rocking out for nearly five minutes. With a new project coming in early 2020, Osbourne has returned without having to stray from his timeless formula.

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The Song That Wants To Be 2019’s Answer To “Let It Go”:
Panic! At the Disco, “Into The Unknown”

When Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie teamed up with Taylor Swift earlier this year, the result was the happy-go-lucky, kid-friendly single “ME!”; it makes sense that Urie would subsequently be tapped to contribute to an actual children’s film soundtrack, although “Into The Unknown,” from the upcoming Frozen 2, is far from carefree. Urie’s operatic voice and general sense of bravado are put to good use as “Into The Unknown” delves into the fear and high drama of taking a major risk, as cymbals crash and backing vocals push forward. Come to decipher plot points from the highly anticipated new Disney tentpole, and stay for that final note Urie hits to blow the top off the place.

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The Album That’s The Perfect Idea of Pop In The Streaming Era:
Doja Cat, Hot Pink

While Los Angeles rapper-singer Doja Cat’s increasing prominence in mainstream music has been somewhat unexpected following the 2018 viral single “Mooo!,” debut album Hot Pink demonstrates a knack for tossing out memorable phrases and song structures that work quite well in our playlisting culture. Leadoff track “Cyber Sex,” which just received a raucous music video, is a gem of rhythmic salaciousness; Smino, Tyga and Gucci Mane stop by elsewhere, and “Bottom Bitch” refracts rock music through a zonked-out trap prism. Doja Cat’s personality is foregrounded throughout Hot Pink, and the project succeeds in setting up an extended career for the once-memed artist.

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The Song By The Massive Dance Artist That’s Very Hard To Dance To:
The Chainsmokers, “Push My Luck”

For being one of the biggest EDM acts on the planet, The Chainsmokers have always toyed with the expectation of how dance music can be arranged; their signature hit, “Closer” featuring Halsey, certainly doesn’t have a traditional club structure, for example. New single “Push My Luck” slows down the tempo even further, with a pseudo-breakdown in the back half but more room set aside for an acoustic guitar lick and quiet reflection on the submission of the moment in which infatuation turns into commitment. The Chainsmokers’ songwriting has become downright tender, with the moody wonder of “Push My Luck” a stark contrast from their “#Selfie”-led early days.

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