Pop

First Stream: New Music From Lady Gaga, SZA & Justin Timberlake, Lil Baby & 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, Lady Gaga is ready to just dance (again), SZA and JT are ready to play with the Trolls, and Lil Baby declares that it’s his turn. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

The Song That You Need To Add To Your 2020 Pop Playlist Immediately:
Lady Gaga, “Stupid Love”

The last time we saw Lady Gaga, she was conquering the silver screen in A Star Is Born, with the elegant pop-rock of its soundtrack earning her a trip around the awards circuit and, ultimately, an Academy Award. “Stupid Love” is Gaga’s first musical statement since that serious-artiste moment and casually shrugs off the newfound cred — who needs it when you just want to dress up in futuristic garb and dance your face off? If Gaga had to roam away from synth-based pop following 2013’s Artpop, then “Stupid Love” marks a return to her home planet: it’s simple, brash, immaculately conceived (Gaga and Max Martin co-wrote it) and dizzyingly effective, with Gaga singing about the passion she cannot deny. It’s not heavy or heart-wrenching, but we’ve already got “Million Reasons” and “Shallow”; Gaga deemed it time to have some fun, and “Stupid Love” will be creating high art on dance floors for months to come.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Song That Will Have You Checking The Release Date For The Next Trolls Movie:
SZA & Justin Timberlake, “The Other Side”

The last time Justin Timberlake, who voices the character Branch in the Trolls movies, contributed a single to the franchise’s soundtrack, he earned one of the biggest hits of his solo career. For the follow-up to “Can’t Stop The Feeling!,” however, JT has ceded half of the spotlight to SZA, on a song that allows the R&B star to switch into full pop-maximalist mode. “The Other Side,” which headlines the Trolls: World Tour soundtrack, is another pristinely rendered hook gallery, with a groove that’s funkier and slightly more mature than the happy-go-lucky “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”; Timberlake has tread this territory before with success, and SZA adapts to the sugary flavor quite well. Who knows? Perhaps her highly anticipated follow-up to 2017’s Ctrl will find her conquering top 40 radio, too.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Album That Every New-School Rap Fan Needs To Hear:
Lil Baby, My Turn

There’s a run of songs on Lil Baby’s new album that demonstrates the range of his talent: following the gut-rattling hit single “Woah,” he goes toe-to-toe with Future on the blistering rap duel “Live Off My Closet,” then pulls back and raps about puppy love on the sweet pop track “Same Thing.” As one of Atlanta’s biggest recent success stories, Lil Baby has sustained his winning streak by diversifying his skill set, utilizing his conversational warble as a storyteller, collaborator and hitmaker. My Turn is a fitting title for an album that features several major guests (Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert) but posits Lil Baby as the most vital voice of all, as he reminiscences about street warfare, expresses his fears about fame and pushes his flow toward a melancholic crack. For those of us who have been waiting for Lil Baby to snatch an even greater share of the limelight, My Turn is a deeply satisfying culmination.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Song In Which a Latin Superstar Runs Laps Around The Competition:
J Balvin, “Rojo”

Musically, there’s not a ton going on in J Balvin’s new single, “Rojo” — the beat is steady but not ostentatious, and the production flourishes are kept to a minimum. All the easier for Balvin to dominate, then: “Rojo” finds the Latin pop megastar thriving at both belting and sing-rapping, leaning into extended syllables on the chorus and dipping into his lower register on the verses. Balvin also understands that “Rojo” is the type of song that shouldn’t be overcooked, as he slides in for two-and-a-half minutes, delivers the goods and then disappears. For an artist who can toss out international anthems effortlessly, it’s nice to have something this subtle, and somewhat challenging, in his arsenal.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Video That Will Have You Going, “....Wait, Is That HER?!”:
Taylor Swift, “The Man”

On “The Man,” Taylor Swift wonders aloud how her experience within the music industry -- and modern society in general -- would be different if she were a man... and six months after unveiling the Lover cut, Swift has more or less answered that question, with a self-directed music video in which she experiences the world as a high-powered bro, thanks to some elaborate, truly eye-popping makeup. The gender swap makes for the delightful conjuring of a lyrical hypothetical, yet the video for “The Man,” much like the song itself, prods its audience into considering double standards a little more deeply: the manspreading, unbecoming anger and coarse activities of Swift’s alter ego are all excused, as they too often are in reality. By the time Swift the director is giving The Man (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) sexist advice, the point is clear, and the intent of “The Man” -- to think twice about this stuff, and embrace progress -- has been effectively conveyed.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Song That Begs To Be Played Very Loudly:
Swae Lee, “Someone Said”

“Someone Said” is not headphones music, but then again, Swae Lee doesn’t make a lot of that: whether as a solo artist tackling pop melodies or as the higher-voiced half of Rae Sremmurd, Swae Lee wants heads knocking in clubs and arenas. New solo track “Someone Said,” which references the rapper’s part on Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” doesn’t carry the singsong energy of “Sunflower” or the no-holds-barred wordplay of “Powerglide,” but its creator is so charismatic that a more straightforward approach is just as memorable. The track doesn’t try to be the single that helps Swae Lee cross over to a wider mainstream audience, but he’s at home here, proving why his formula still works.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Video That Deserves To Be Viewed on a Big Screen:
BTS, “On”

For a group that seems to always be busy, BTS consistently finds time to turn its high-concept singles into equally elaborate visuals. That’s certainly the case with the big-budget video for “On,” which initially separates the boys and plops them into recognizable adventures -- from The Hunger Games to the Biblical journey of Noah -- before they ultimately reconnect, show off their dance moves and scale Pride Rock from The Lion King. There’s a lot to digest in the “On” clip, yet the ambition of BTS remains front and center, as if the grand scale of these reference points captures the enormity of what they’re trying to accomplish. BTS accepts nothing less than the epic, and make sure the “On” video hits that mark.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Song That Might Become a First-Dance Staple at Weddings:
Keith Urban, “God Whispered Your Name”

The idea of salvation is at the heart of Keith Urban’s charming new single — that everything can turn around for someone when the right person, or spirit, gets involved. As the country veteran croons about how “Suddenly I wanna live / More than I ever did,” the chugging acoustic guitar and backing harmonies never swell into overdramatic territory, and Urban guides the song toward a light, loving conclusion. “God Whispered Your Name” would have sounded at home on adult contemporary radio in the mid-2000s, but Urban has positioned the track for a fruitful run across country stations over the next few months; as a result, you’re unlikely to hear a more effervescent single on country airwaves this spring.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Album With The Lyrics You’ll Want To Read Until You Memorize Them:
Soccer Mommy, Color Theory

It’s an indie-rock tale as old as time: low-budget project finds an audience, artist tours relentlessly to help that audience grow, a new label deal follows, and the next project has a fuller, more accessible sound. Soccer Mommy mastermind Sophie Allison’s story may be familiar, but her songwriting is wholly unique, and it remains intact on the marvelous Color Theory. The follow-up to 2018’s Clean does indeed sound designed for wider listenership (lead single “Circle The Drain” remains one of the most immediate alternative tracks of 2020), yet Soccer Mommy’s lyrical gems — her hope trying to slip through the cracks of cynicism — are not dulled by the heft (“You don’t need solving / You’re just not what I want,” she shrugs on “Royal Screw Up”). That leap to the big leagues is a tricky one to nail, but Soccer Mommy has issued what will likely be one of the standout indie albums of 2020 by never betraying her strengths.