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, Bad Bunny gives us the soundtrack of the summer, Jack Harlow levels up once again, and Taylor Swift re-records a 1989 gem. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Bad Bunny, Un Verano Sin Ti
Prep the backyard barbecue and schedule the beach hangs: it’s the first Friday of May, and Bad Bunny, a global superstar with some of the most dynamic earworms of the past few years, has just released his most joyful album to date. The 23-song Un Verano Sin Ti is designed for an epic party, with Bad Bunny tossing out tactile reggaetón jams with ease and inviting friends like Jhay Cortez and Rauw Alejandro along for the ride (the latter’s “Party” will soon be inescapable, no doubt), yet at the same time, the project never feels too broad — Bad Bunny imbues several songs with heartbreak and resilience, his singular voice choosing happiness in spite of other circumstances.
Jack Harlow, Come Home The Kids Miss You
Just two years ago, Jack Harlow was an outsider trying to crash mainstream hip-hop’s party with “Whats Poppin” — now, he’s a superstar, for a variety of reasons, none bigger than the conviction he brings to every slick hook and lyrical punchline. Come Home The Kids Miss You will likely function as the Kentucky rapper’s coronation, with a No. 1 smash (the undeniable “First Class”) already within its track list and guest spots from Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Lil Wayne and Drake; the lattermost represents the album’s biggest influence, from the come-up storytelling to the sensual beat selection to the baked-in audacity of a song like “Dua Lipa.”
Taylor Swift, “This Love (Taylor’s Version)”
“This Love” was always one of the most underrated songs on Taylor Swift’s 1989 — as the only track on the blockbuster album that she wrote solo, its intimacy anchors the back half of a full-length that often utilizes major keys and bright colors. The new “Taylor’s Version” of the track serves as a strong reminder of its power, with the production slightly updated but its emotional resonance intact, ready for its listener to spend the rest of the afternoon singing “WOAH-oh-oh!” at every turn.
Arcade Fire, WE
The fact that WE, Arcade Fire’s sixth studio album, is arriving five years after 2017’s Everything Now is significant: the longest recording gap in the indie-rock giants’ career allowed them time to reset after a maximalist project that had its charms but wasn’t well-received. In contrast, WE is more restrained and focused, if still as ambitious as anything the band has ever released — songs like “End of The Empire I-III” go for the jugular with their sociopolitical lyrics but never overreach sonically, and the two halves of “Age of Anxiety” are the most memorable Arcade Fire album openers since their Funeral days.
Lady Gaga, “Hold My Hand”
Lady Gaga’s theme song for Top Gun: Maverick was clearly designed with the year 1986 in mind: “Hold My Hand” contains the sweeping balladry and slow-mo emotion that would have made sense for an action flick around the time the original Top Gun was released. “Hold My Hand” sounds divorced from the electro-pop of Gaga’s Chromatica era, as well as the jazz standards of her Tony Bennett project Love For Sale, and it will be interesting to see whether the song serves as a one-off soundtrack contribution or a nod to where she’s headed next.
Doja Cat, “Vegas”
Speaking of soundtrack contributions, Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis biopic has been bestowed with a “Hound Dog” revival courtesy of one of the most ubiquitous voices in pop today. Doja Cat’s “Vegas” allows the A-lister to have some frothy fun in between Planet Her smashes, spinning a classic track around her finger and confidently rhyming about a lowdown partner, whom she finally invites to “come find a treat.”