Pop

First Stream: New Music From Taylor Swift, Doja Cat & SZA and More

Taylor Swift
Jordan Strauss/AP/Shutterstock

Taylor Swift poses in the press room at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021.

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 dives into her version of Fearless, Doja Cat and SZA combine for a summer jam, and J Balvin and Khalid yearn in different languages. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

Taylor Swift, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) 

Taylor Swift’s journey to re-record her first six studio albums has kicked off with 2008’s Fearless, a project that earned the album of the year Grammy, sold millions of copies, scored multiple top 10 hits on the Hot 100 chart, and still holds up as a heartfelt snapshot of a brilliant songwriter coming of age. Diehard fans will love exploring how Swift reworked the songs they know and love, while casual Swifties should embrace the six “From The Vault” tracks that provide a new blast from Swift’s country-pop past.

Doja Cat feat. SZA, “Kiss Me More” 

As the weather heats up, vaccines roll out and public gatherings gradually become more commonplace, so will public displays of affection -- and Doja Cat and SZA have teamed up to provide the soundtrack for such occasions. “Kiss Me More” revisits the disco-pop thump of Doja’s breakthrough smash “Say So” with a romantic, slightly subtle touch: the pair keep their rhymes tight and chorus vocals breathy, but don’t mince words while declaring, “All on my tongue, I want it!”

J Balvin & Khalid, “Otra Noche Sin Ti” 

A slew of bilingual tracks have impacted the charts over the past half-decade, with Spanish-language and English-language stars teaming up to collapse borders and target different demographics; J Balvin and Khalid follow this formula on “Otra Noche Sin Ti,” yet the pairing sounds especially dynamic. Balvin and Khalid both understand the power of a lovelorn croon, and as they sing about ruing “another night without you” in separate languages, their loneliness effectively transcends dialects.

Brockhampton, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine 

Whether or not Brockhampton makes good on its promise to release two albums this year, beginning with Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, and then call it quits, the hip-hop collective has already made its mark on the genre, continuing on an electrifying run that has included unhinged live shows, wild fan devotion and some of the most fearless popular music of the past few years. If 2019’s Ginger was a more melancholy effort, Roadrunner works hard to kick its listeners in the gut, especially when guests like A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA stop by to contribute to the ruckus.

Twenty One Pilots, “Shy Away” 

Although “Shy Away” sounds like it was created by a completely different band than the duo who made hits like “Stressed Out” and “Heathens,” those who have been paying attention to Twenty One Pilots over the past few years, particularly their happy-go-lucky quarantine jam “Level Of Concern,” shouldn’t be shocked by the sunny bounce of their latest single. “Shy Away” rips into its hook with one eye fixed on alternative radio, and another on the arena shows that will no doubt be awaiting the group when the touring world opens back up.

Polo G, “Rapstar” 

“Every day a battle, I'm exhausted and I'm weary,” Chicago great Polo G admits on “Rapstar,” and he sounds like he means it, plowing through his similes and experiences with a head that hangs heavy thanks to newfound fame. Polo G remains one of the strongest storytellers in modern hip-hop, and even when his money-counting can’t provide a sense of peace, the results are often captivating for his listeners.

Queen Naija & Ari Lennox, “Set Him Up” 

With “Set Him Up,” Queen Naija and Ari Lennox have combined and unleashed a gender-flipped “Same Girl” for a new generation. As they slowly realize that their boasts about their romantic exploits boil down to a shared man, Naija and Lennox gleefully allow the R&B song to morph around them, joining forces to get back at their guy and displaying their singular personas in the process.

Billboard Explains: Why Taylor Swift is Re-Recording Her Old Albums