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, Coldplay and BTS drop a galaxy-sized collaboration, YoungBoy Never Broke Again checks in after a quiet period, and Giveon continues to shine as a new R&B powerhouse. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Coldplay x BTS, “My Universe”
When a stadium-conquering rock band and globe-trotting pop group join forces, the result deserves a title as ostentatious as “My Universe” — and while the highly anticipated team-up between Coldplay and BTS does sound designed for bellowing toward the heavens, it’s a surprisingly tender love song, an ode to a loved one and “that bright infinity inside your eyes.” Could the pairing be portrayed as a contrivance? Maybe, but with the way Chris Martin’s voice is buoyed by a top-notch performance from the BTS boys, “My Universe” is too satisfying to scoff at.
YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Sincerely, Kentrell
Waiting at least a year between full-length releases might be standard practice for most popular recording artists, but for YoungBoy Never Broke Again, one of the most prolific artists in modern hip-hop, 12 months feels like a lifetime. The follow-up to 2020’s Top is finally here, and it’s predictably sprawling: with 21 guest-free tracks, Sincerely, Kentrell allows YoungBoy to spend time sinking into his haunting memories and powerful flexes, his voice floating into a croon on his hooks and then spinning down into a possessed flow on most verses.
Giveon, “For Tonight”
Two of the reasons why Giveon has become one of the breakout R&B stars of the year: his deep, tranquil voice, and the expressive way in which he deploys it. New single “For Tonight” focuses on a forbidden romance — “We’ve become numb to what we know is wrong,” Giveon sings, “but no one knows but us” — and the song’s main attraction is the pain he imbues into each syllable, as if even recounting his impulses represents emotional torture. “For Tonight” eschews the crossover fodder of “Peaches,” his recent No. 1 single with Justin Bieber and Daniel Caesar, in favor of wrenching, spectacular soul.
Karol G, “Sejodioto”
This weekend marks six months since the release of Karol G’s KG0516 album, as well as one month until her U.S. headlining tour kicks off. In between, the Colombian star is giving fans some intriguing new looks — first with her English-language collaboration with Tiësto, “Don’t Be Shy,” and now with “Sejodioto,” a slinky pop track that shrugs off relationships and lets Karol G continue demonstrating her growing vocal confidence.
Mickey Guyton, Remember Her Name
Last year, Mickey Guyton’s song “Black Like Me” offered a vital point of view: a Black woman recounting a lifetime of racism, including within the country music industry that she now calls home. Remember Her Name, Guyton’s long-awaited debut album, continues to tell a singular story with nuance and grace, but also triumphs by functioning as a positive and downright fun country LP, with tracks like “Lay It On Me” and “Rosé” showcasing Guyton’s charisma and knack for melody.
G-Eazy, These Things Happen Too
There’s a song on G-Eazy’s new album titled “I, Me, Myself” — a sly nod back to the rapper’s top 10 hit “Me, Myself & I” with Bebe Rexha, and a suggestion that he’s been thinking about his past and artistic evolution. These Things Happen Too finds G-Eazy looking inward even on mega-watt collaborations (the title of “When You’re Gone” with Lil Wayne, for instance, refers to when the general public really loves you) and pushing himself to examine his feelings as a hip-hop artist with sizable commercial success and greater ambitions.
Alessia Cara, In the Meantime
The lyrics to Alessia Cara’s third album, In the Meantime, contain a plethora of rhetorical questions, which the pop singer-songwriter tells Billboard “came from my very specific anxieties about life and its meaning.” The “Here” and “Scars to Your Beautiful” singer is less concerned with single strategies then searching for purpose, and on In the Meantime, she considers her future and legacy within beautifully rendered tracks like the piano ballad “Best Days” and the rhythmic, quarantine-inspired “Fishbowl.”