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, Blackpink is finally back in your area, Demi Lovato delivers an unflinching opus, and Panic! At The Disco aims higher than ever. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Blackpink, “Pink Venom”
Blackpink’s highly anticipated new single kicks off with the quartet simply chanting their group name — a pronouncement of their return nearly two years after their debut album, but also, a warning for the rest of the global pop community to get ready. “Pink Venom” serves as a stylish, stirring reintroduction to the multi-faceted foursome that throws a lot at its listener within three minutes — including a Rihanna interpolation, a scintillating rap breakdown, bilingual hooks and a modernization of traditional Korean instrumentation — but Lisa, Jennie, Jisoo and Rosé hold “Pink Venom” together, and provide a cohesive opening statement to Born Pink.
Demi Lovato, Holy Fvck
Demi Lovato’s voice has always been a spectacular instrument — sturdy yet soaring, able to attack the highest notes yet still be approachable enough to avoid showiness. With Holy Fvck, however, Lovato is utilizing that voice for their most frank and genuine statement to date, in a mode — percussion-heavy pop-punk — that suits her well. Although its title and album artwork (featuring Lovato tied up on a cross-shaped mattress) suggest a shock-rock pivot, Lovato’s unflinching thoughts on sexuality, religion, their mistreatment as a teen star and autonomy today are provocative without coming across as overly theatrical; Holy Fvck is simply Lovato’s story to tell, and above wiry guitar riffs and cymbal crashes, she tells it with confidence.
Panic! At The Disco, Viva Las Vengeance
Panic! At The Disco’s 2018 full-length Pray For The Wicked was not only another No. 1 album for the Brendon Urie project, but also produced their highest-charting hit to date with the unstoppable “High Hopes” — an impressive feat for a rock band squarely in its second decade, and one that led to Urie duetting with Taylor Swift on a lead single one year later. Instead of pandering to the mainstream, however, Urie has looked inward on Viva Las Vengeance, which he describes as “a look back at who I was 17 years ago and who I am now with the fondness I didn’t have before” in a statement; the result is a personal document in the form of a rock opera, with Urie filling in the details of his rise to fame with grandeur and grace.
Zedd, Maren Morris & BEAUZ, “Make You Say”
Lightning struck when Zedd and Maren Morris first linked up in 2018, as “The Middle,” also featuring Grey, became one of the most ubiquitous hits of that year and earned a pair of Big Four Grammy noms. Wisely, this reunion does not attempt to follow its precise formula: “Make You Say” is more subtle in setup and execution than “The Middle,” with an elastic hook and a more restrained vocal take from Morris, but since the country star has one of the most expressive voices in modern music and Zedd trades primarily in earworms, don’t be surprised if “Make You Say” conquers top 40 as well.
Tyler Hubbard, Dancin’ In The Country EP
After years of dominating popular country as one-half of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard will make his official solo debut with an album due out in January 2023. Until then, however, the singer-songwriter has offered a promising collection of six tracks on Dancin’ In The Country, which make good use of his pliable voice and storytelling panache by supporting them with full-bodied production — when the instrumentation fully kicks in on the chorus of the title track, for instance, you’ll be reflexively toasting the waning days of summer.
Offset, “5 4 3 2 1”
Migos have plenty of palace intrigue going on right now, with Quavo and Takeoff releasing tracks together as a duo as breakup rumors abound; Offset’s “5 4 3 2 1,” a rare solo track, will not quell those whispers, although the new single — produced by Baby Keem — reminds the world of his power when removed from a group dynamic. “5 4 3 2 1” bursts with similes and sex talk across one extended verse, but as Offset operates over the ominous beat, he gains steam, as if the questions surrounding his trio have made him hungrier than ever as a solo performer.