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, Adele doesn’t take it easy on our heartstrings, Young Thug continues to shape-shift, Coldplay reaches outward and PinkPantheress makes good on her early promise. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Adele, “Easy On Me”
“Easy On Me,” which leads Adele’s forthcoming album 30, is not more of the same, no matter how closely parts of the track (which Adele created with longtime collaborator Greg Kurstin) resemble her past smashes. Instead of offering more tear duct-ravaging balladry focused on long-gone exes or scorned romances, “Easy On Me” presents a different type of devastating power: a plea for understanding, following a breakup that has caused too much collateral damage.
Young Thug, Punk
Based on its title and some of Young Thug’s recent work alongside Travis Barker, Punk has been set up to be the rap superstar’s rock crossover bid, a Rebirth for a new generation. While some of the ambitious project’s 20 tracks place guitars front and center, Punk sounds more like a continuation of the multi-genre experimentation Thugger showcased on this year’s Slime Language 2, with straightforward rap bangers (“Bubbly” with Drake and Travis Scott), surprising pop-rock sing-alongs (“Love You More,” which sports a rare appearance from Fun.’s Nate Ruess) and songs that split the difference (the hip-hop crooner “Recognize Real” with Gunna).
Coldplay, Music of the Spheres
Over the past decade, Coldplay have made a conscious decision to open up their stadium-ready alt-rock to accommodate more pop-adjacent visions — beginning with unexpected collaborations with artists like The Chainsmokers and Rihanna, and continuing through new album Music of the Spheres, in which Max Martin helps guide an expansive project that also brings artists like BTS and Selena Gomez into the fold. Yet the good news for longtime fans is that Chris Martin and co. can navigate those gestures toward the mainstream without sacrificing their rock ambition, as songs like the stomping “People of The Pride” and the 10-minute epic “Coloratura” demonstrate on their latest.
PinkPantheress, To Hell With It
Ten songs, 18 minutes: the debut mixtape from PinkPantheress, the UK singer-songwriter that has quickly become a force on streaming platforms, does not labor its points or overstay its welcome. Within that short run time, however, is the sound of a rising star understanding and dominating the format that fits her best: songs like “Last Valentine” and “Noticed I Cried” last barely over a minute each, but PinkPantheress packs them with wry observations and graceful harmonies over busy sets of percussion in order to feel fully realized.
Summer Walker feat. City Girls, “Ex For a Reason”
On the same day that Adele returned to remind the world of her vocal power, another striking voice in modern music, Summer Walker, has also come back to flaunt the sumptuous tone that’s made her a star. The crackling “Ex For a Reason,” which leads her upcoming album Still Over It, receives a hard-charging verse from City Girls’ JT, but Walker’s R&B mastery and command of the microphone are the main selling points here.
Paulina Rubio, “Yo Soy”
Paulina Rubio describes “Yo Soy,” her first new single in two years and debut with new label home Sony, as a “manifesto” — and indeed, the veteran Mexican singer-songwriter sounds like she’s ready to address her standing as a writer, performer, mother and woman. “Yo Soy” starts out softly but then picks up steam, with Rubio effortlessly weaving through the production changes and tossing in some lighthearted ad-libs for good measure.