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, Cats and Star Wars get showy new soundtracks, Young Thug and Travis Scott once again team up, and Future corrals his favorite new rap artists. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Albums That You’ll Want To Peruse After Hitting The Multiplex This Weekend:
Various Artists, Cats: Highlights From The Motion Picture Soundtrack
John Williams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Original Soundtrack
Ah, the Christmas rush of blockbuster movie releases: an annual tradition that encourages families to brave the colder weather and take in a popcorn flick over holiday breaks. This Friday boasts a nifty bit of counter-programming, with the ninth episode of the Star Wars saga going head-to-head with the big-screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved musical Cats, and both films have accompanying full-lengths worth your time. While Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features a typically dazzling John Williams score, Cats showcases its varied cast across a 16-song soundtrack that includes Taylor Swift’s original track “Beautiful Ghosts,” Jason Derulo taking on “The Rum Tum Tugger” and, in a fitting centerpiece, Jennifer Hudson knocking “Memory” out of the park.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker:
The Song That Closes Out Another Big Year For Two A-List MCs:
Young Thug feat. Travis Scott, “Hop Off a Jet”
In 2019, Young Thug expanded his commercial reach with his No. 1 album So Much Fun, while Travis Scott — coming off a phenomenal 2018 — scored another Hot 100 chart-topper with “Highest in the Room.” Such occasions call for a toast, and that’s what “Hop Off a Plane,” on the new deluxe edition of So Much Fun, essentially becomes. Over chopped-up steel drums, Thugger goes typically berserk with his flow in a confined space, while Scott calls back to his “Highest in the Room” delivery; after “The London” became one of the defining hits of the year — another 2019 win for both! — Young Thug and Travis Scott deploy “Hop Off a Plane” as a celebration of success, and leave fans wanting more collaborations in 2020 and beyond.
The Album That Lets a Hip-Hop Titan Show His Taste:
Various Artists, 1800 Seconds Vol. 2: Curated by Future
As part of 1800 Tequila’s 1800 Seconds series, Future has followed Pusha T in curating a compilation of rising MCs, and as one of the most influential hip-hop artists of the past decade, the Atlanta native’s impact on the genre can be heard in the artists assembled across the country for the project. Listeners unfamiliar with monikers like Herion Young, Test, Aurora Anthony and Lihtz will certainly recognize the beat construction, woozy flow and emphasis on melody that Future has made paramount to all of his projects; as for the songs, “Put It In Drive” sounds like it could knock within the heart of a Beast Mode mixtape, while “Field Trip” lets the gravel-voiced Anthony snarl and shine. 1800 Seconds allows Future and the next class of MCs to nod to each other dutifully, and is a 30-minute listen worth revisiting for the new voices on display.
The Video That Will Get You Even More Hyped For December 25:
Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (Make My Wish Come True Edition)
Perhaps you’ve heard that Mariah Carey’s iconic holiday single “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has finally hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a quarter-century after effortlessly sleigh-riding into our lives. As timeless as the song and its classic winter-wonderland music video may be, Carey has given fans another stocking stuffer in the form of a new visual that translates the song’s wonder to a new generation. In between clips of children prancing and dancing, Carey leads the festivities looking just as spirited as she did in the mid-90s; if anything, the pop superstar looks even more natural in the holly, jolly environment after years of playing holiday shows. Put a ribbon on your season, and indulge in some extra Mariah-approved cheer.
The Mixtape That Will Have You Dancing Through Christmas and Toward New Year’s Eve:
Dancehall superstar Popcaan has said that his new mixtape Vanquish is “a Christmas present for all my fans,” and indeed, the project can be digested as a fine present for those already familiar with his tried-and-true formula. Vanquish features shimmering dance floor fare like “Promise,” as well as more explicit sexuality, paeans to religion and reflections on celebrity (the latter through the particularly energetic “Happy and Wealthy”); it all works well, although credit to Popcaan for dropping “Love You,” one of his most romantically earnest and moving tracks to date, near the top of the new tape. Popcaan never has to try too mightily to entertain, but Vanquish proves that he can still reach new heights in his craft.
The EP That Keeps Things Short, Sweet and Compelling:
DaniLeigh, My Present
My Present, Miami native DaniLeigh’s new project, is a total of four songs and eight minutes long — but that’s how long it takes for the singer-rapper to leave a lasting impression. The Def Jam signee sings bluntly about her self-worth and what she’s looking for from the world around her, and on My Present, she displays the different angles from which she can cohesively present her persona. “Usually,” for instance, is under two minutes of unyielding swagger over a drip-drop trap beat, but two songs later, she’s pleading for honesty from a romantic partner before her voice fades out: “Don’t be hiding shit up in your phone/ Know that you gon’ miss me when I’m gone.” DaniLeigh will undoubtedly have longer projects to roll out in the near future, and hopefully they’re as arresting as My Present.