First Stream: New Music From Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion, Juice WRLD & The Weeknd, Luke Bryan & 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, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion team up to rule the rap conversation, Juice WRLD’s voice is paired with the Weeknd’s familiar croon, and Luke Bryan honors our simple pleasures. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

The Song That You Will Not Be Able To Play Around Your Parents, Ever:
Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion, "WAP"

Set aside the star-studded music video, the eye-popping artwork, every fantastically filthy lyric and even the titular acronym for a second; “WAP,” the new team-up of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion represents a landmark moment for women in rap, the week’s biggest release headlined by two undeniable hip-hop talents at the absolute top of her game. While Megan Thee Stallion has spent the past year gathering commercial steam thanks to her unstoppable bar construction and canny career moves, Cardi B has been waiting in the wings, finding the right moment to reintroduce her flow after a massive 2018. With “WAP,” which flips Frank Ski’s Baltimore club staple “Whores In This House” on its head, both artists rule the bedroom while shooting for the stars, Cardi and Meg reveling in their sexuality with an array of instantly quotable lines. If you thought Cardi had lost a step, or that Megan wasn’t about to enjoy back-to-back Hot Girl Summers, “WAP” has you filled with regret within its first minute.

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

The Song That Joins Two Disparate But Powerful Forces:
Juice WRLD feat. The Weeknd, "Smile"

Over the course of his career, the Weeknd has made a point of diversifying his collaborators and working with some of modern music’s most inventive artists, from Drake to Lana Del Rey to Future to Daft Punk. “Smile,” a track with Juice WRLD that has been added to the late rapper’s blockbuster posthumous album Legends Never Die, is yet another instance in which the Weeknd understands a collaborator’s strengths and how to cater to them: here, he meshes his polished pop tone with Juice’s vulnerable warble perfectly, the separate takes on inner demons weaving into a cohesive statement. It doesn’t get any easier to see Juice deliver a line like “Devil on my shoulder telling me I’ll die soon,” but at least his legacy has been enshrined since his passing, with artists like the Weeknd thoughtfully paying homage.

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

The Album That’s Reliable In An Unpredictable Year:
Luke Bryan, Born Here, Live Here, Die Here

The title of Luke Bryan’s new album, Born Here, Live Here, Die Here, nods to the humble pleasures of a quiet life, the type of small-town experiences that the country superstar has made his songwriting bedrock, even as he’s played stadiums across the United States. Although Bryan’s first album since 2017 was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, he has thankfully returned to beam us back into a simple, straightforward lifestyle divorced from a topsy-turvy 2020: summer parties (“One Margarita”), grin-inducing flirtations (“What She Wants Tonight”), paternal salutes (“For A Boat”), and, of course, time-honored values, as heard on the title track. Stick around for the late-album highlight “Where Are We Goin’,” in which Bryan gives his proven formula a dreamier quality and shines.

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

The Song With One of the Year’s Most Surprising Samples:
Doja Cat, "Freak"

Doja Cat dropping a song titled “Freak” that’s focused on her sexual prowess and filled with colorful metaphors is far from surprising. The fact that the song adopts a doo-wop sheen and samples Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head On My Shoulder,” though? Nope, didn’t see that one coming. Expertly juxtaposing starry-eyed romance with X-rated imagery, Doja Cat runs with the concept, and hopscotches between a tender croon and a rap flow with abandon. Although “Freak” isn’t constructed as a crossover hit like “Say So” or “Boss Bitch,” the track showcases Doja Cat’s unique skill set and excellent taste -- check out that reference to Kelis’ “Milkshake” late in the song, too.

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

The Song That Will Force You Out Of Bed To Start The Day Right:
Joji & Diplo, "Daylight"

Joji’s profile has grown considerably leading up to the release of his second solo album, Nectar, and on “Daylight,” a new collaboration with Diplo, the veteran producer may get equal billing but it’s the singer who controls the atmosphere. As Joji slips over a collection of striking images -- first he’s “preoccupied with the late-night B-roll,” then he’s “sun-dried on the backyard patio” -- his sonorous vocal tone drives the production, providing the magnetism of a classic crooner. The singer-songwriter clearly has an eye on the mainstream, teaming up with Diplo as well as pop veteran Greg Kurstin, who co-wrote and co-produced the track; fortunately for Joji, he’s able to evolve into a star simply by being himself.

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

The Album That Sheds New Light On A Long-Running Group:
Glass Animals, Dreamland

Although Glass Animals’ third album Dreamland is not a quantum leap away from the sonic palette that the U.K. group had been previously using, the R&B-indebted psych-pop now sports more intimate shades; drummer Joe Seaward suffered a near-fatal traffic accident in 2018, and the group has turned that trauma into a springboard for more emotional songwriting. Early album highlights like “Hot Sugar” and “Tangerine” find frontman Dave Bayley tossing out soulful vocal flourishes amidst fizzy grooves, but are interspersed with home recordings that bring the listeners into the lives of the creators. Glass Animals has long been a good festival hang and playlist addition, but the higher stakes here make Dreamland the first front-to-back must-listen of their career.

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

The Song To Immediately Add To Your Post-Quarantine Club Necessities:
Kali Uchis & Rico Nasty, "Aqui Yo Mando"

The last we heard from Kali Uchis, the rising singer-songwriter was baring her emotions on her To Feel Alive EP in April, dabbling in funk, soul and rock while trying on some more personal outfits. If that project was a stopgap between albums, then “Aqui Yo Mando,” a new single alongside Rico Nasty, once again sets expectations ablaze from her next full-length: this is a stomping, multi-lingual banger, with both artists attacking the beat and flaunting their personas in spite of the short running time. On 2018’s Isolation, Uchis nodded to pop a few times, but “Aqui Yo Mando” positions her as a potentially commanding radio presence, and the result is riveting.

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

The Song That Your Springsteen-Loving Uncle Will Vibe With, Too:
Bon Iver, “AUATC”

Since emerging from a lonely cabin retreat with For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007 and entering the hearts of critics and indie-folk fans, Justin Vernon has shifted Bon Iver with each new album -- and this summer, in between full-lengths four and five, has morphed his signature project in startling new directions. After scoring an unexpected top 10 Hot 100 hit with “Exile,” his duet with Taylor Swift on her Folklore album, Vernon has teased his next project with “AUATC (Ate Up All Their Cake),” an enchanting sing-along featuring the voices of Bruce Springsteen and Jenny Lewis among those blended in with Vernon’s own. A strike against classism, racism and sexism in the classic folk tradition of peace and harmony, the track contorts Vernon’s approach even further but with a payoff as satisfying as any of his best detours.

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

The Album That Lets a Longtime Studio Star Shine Even Brighter:
Victoria Monet, Jaguar

Victoria Monet is not the first songwriter trying to make the leap out of the studio and into the spotlight: after scoring smashes with Ariana Grande and a long career that includes work with Fifth Harmony, T.I. and Chloe x Halle, Monet is restarting her solo career after a few previous attempts. What Jaguar -- a compact, 25-minute reintroduction after a handful of earlier projects -- showcases, however, is a gifted vocalist as well as hook creator. Hearing Monet craft a radio-ready single like the Khalid/SG Lewis burner “Experience” is no surprise at this point, but her nuanced delivery on “Ass Like That” and the title track suggest that her singing should no longer be relegated to other artists’ demos. Even if Jaguar doesn’t spawn a crossover hit for Monet, the singer-songwriter has proven herself too talented to stay in the shadows.

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

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.