Pop

First Stream: New Music From Taylor Swift & Maren Morris, Lil Nas X, Rod Wave and More

Maren Morris, Taylor Swift
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

(L-R) Maren Morris and Taylor Swift attend the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on FOX at Microsoft Theater on March 14, 2019 in Los Angeles.

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, Taylor Swift hoists out a song from the vault (with help from Maren Morris), Lil Nas X refuses to compromise his spirit, and Rod Wave tells his full story. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

Taylor Swift feat. Maren Morris, “You All Over Me (Taylor’s Version)” 

After beginning her career as one of the sharpest country-pop songwriters to ever invade Nashville, Taylor Swift evolved, understandably so, conquering the pop world and recently settling into an indie-folk phase. Yet for those still longing for Swift to return to her roots, “You All Over Me” -- a previously unreleased song from the Fearless era, revived for her Taylor’s Version re-recording coming next month -- feels particularly special: with Maren Morris providing background vocals, the song features the intimate lyricism and rustic texture of Swift’s early work, but comes from a modern, and wiser, perspective.

Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” 

Upon the release of his latest single, Lil Nas X also unveiled a letter addressed to his 14-year-old self, which speaks to the song’s inspiration (“It’s about a guy I met last summer”) as well as the rapper’s past struggles with coming out as queer. In this way, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is more than a catchy rhythmic-pop track, or an eye-popping music video that involves a devilish lap dance -- it’s a sucker-punch against any person or institution trying to deny someone’s individuality, from the artist behind the longest-running Hot 100 No. 1 hit in history.

Rod Wave, SoulFly 

During a first quarter of 2021 that’s been relatively light on widescreen hip-hop releases, St. Petersburg rapper Rod Wave has arrived with his most authoritative project to date, a collection of passionate stories coiled around melodies that are croaked out, rapped and crooned. Rod Wave’s booming flow now has the songs to match his energy on SoulFly, especially during the mid-album run from “Richer,” featuring Polo G, and the electrifying “How The Game Go.”

Justin Bieber, Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe) 

Although it’s only been a week since Justin Bieber released his latest full-length opus, today we get served even more Justice, by way of six new bonus tracks. The guest stars are plentiful -- Lil Uzi Vert, DaBaby, Tori Kelly, Quavo and Jaden all show up for the Triple Chucks Deluxe -- but the strongest new track might be the lone solo cut, “Lifetime,” which distills the romantic joy throughout Justice into a taut, moving guitar ballad.

Demi Lovato, “Dancing With The Devil” 

We’ll get Demi Lovato’s new full-length, Dancing with the Devil... The Art of Starting Over, next week, but until then, the pop star has delivered a frank account of her struggles with addiction to precede the first album since her June 2018 overdose. “I told you I was okay but I was lying,” Lovato sings on “Dancing With The Devil,” reexamining her personal trauma with an unflinching amount of authenticity; it’s not an easy listen, but it’s a crucial one to understanding Lovato’s story.

Karol G, KG0516 

Colombian pop star Karol G has stayed extremely busy since the 2019 release of her sophomore album, Ocean, scoring hit collaborations with artists like Nicki Minaj (“Tusa”) and Anuel AA and J Balvin (“Location”) in between releasing solo tracks like “Ay, Dios Mio!” and “Bichota.” All four of those songs make the track list to third album KG0516, but the sprawling effort effectively intersperses the previously released cuts with new highlights like the Mariah Angeliq team-up “El Makinon,” finding cohesion in Karol’s growing complexity as a vocalist and pop persona.

24KGoldn, El Dorado 

“Mood,” San Francisco rapper 24KGoldn’s No. 1 smash alongside Iann Dior, became a juggernaut in part due to its crossover appeal, with hip-hop, pop and alternative radio all embracing the cross-genre anthem. On El Dorado, 24KGoldn straddles a few sounds at once, but the debut album also puts in work to establish the rising artist as a true rap presence, with DaBaby, Future and Swae Lee showing up in between bouncier top 40 fare like the snappy sing-along “Love Or Lust.”

Carrie Underwood, My Savior 

“This is an album I have always wanted to record and I’m thrilled to be able to bring these uplifting, inspirational songs to life in this special way,” Carrie Underwood says in a press release regarding her debut gospel album, My Savior. That Underwood had long been interested in creating an album of traditional hymns shouldn’t be surprising: just as she did on her recent Christmas album My Gift, the country star uses her spectacular voice on My Savior to reinvigorate age-old classics and push her aesthetic forward.

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