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, Drake and Lil Durk are certified lover boys, Miley Cyrus is healing after heartbreak and SuperM goes from 0 to 100 real quick. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Song That Sounds Like Another Huge Hit in a Career Full of Them:
Drake feat. Lil Durk, “Laugh Now Cry Later”
As Drake has continued his run as our most bulletproof modern hitmaker, he has consistently changed up his approach and pulled pop music into his various detours. Earlier this year, we got “Toosie Slide,” an understated TikTok dance track that nevertheless debuted atop the Hot 100 chart, and now we have “Laugh Now Cry Later,” an elliptical reflection on success with an amorphous beat setup that will undoubtedly be massive in no time. Credit Drake’s natural charisma, which powers through a chorus that somehow kicks into gear on its last line, as well as the buoyant presence of Lil Durk, the emerging Chicago rapper who name-checks the best place to get a wig styled in Atlanta. “Laugh Now Cry Later” is the lead single off Drake’s next album, Certified Lover Boy, a project that will surely find the superstar chasing his muse in compelling new directions.
The Song That Will Help Put Your Ex in the Rearview:
Miley Cyrus, “Midnight Sky”
The last we heard from Miley Cyrus, she was slipping into the abyss, singing about her split with Liam Hemsworth on last year’s melancholy stunner “Slide Away.” Now, she has risen from the ashes, commanding the dance floor with an unexpected disco comeback: “Midnight Sky” functions like a satisfied response to the pain of “Slide Away,” with Cyrus embracing the night’s unanswered questions and declaring early on, “It’s been a long time since I felt this good on my own.” Hearing Cyrus in such a positive headspace is encouraging, as is the sound of her thriving in a traditional pop setting; Louis Bell and Watt produced an electrifying return for Cyrus, and she has made the most of her re-emergence.
The Song That Keeps It “100” (Sorry):
It’s been less than a year since K-pop supergroup SuperM — which includes members of SHINee, EXO, WayV and NCT127 — scored a historic No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with its self-titled EP, but the septet has already returned with a full-throttle shot at continued stateside crossover. “100,” which leads next month’s proper debut album, showcases why SuperM is already such a force in the K-pop world: all seven members are adept at commanding the spotlight, and all seven get a chance to shine on a song marked by an aggressive electronic crunch of a hook. If this is the intensity to expect from Super One, due out Sept. 25, then SuperM could be gathering up new fans in a hurry this fall.
The Album That Should Help a Global Reach Expand Even Further:
Burna Boy, Twice As Tall
Nigerian superstar Burna Boy’s 2019 album African Giant helped introduce him to a much larger U.S. fan base, and the Afrobeat king hasn’t looked back in the year since, hopping on tracks with Sam Smith, Stormzy, Ed Sheehan and Pop Smoke while also snagging a Grammy nomination. Twice As Tall may nod to the title of its predecessor as an exercise in Burna Boy leveling up creatively and commercially, and if it is, the rollicking new album fulfills its goal: songs like “Way Too Big” and “Wonderful” push Burna Boy forward as a singular pop entity who can champion African music in a western setting, while “Monsters You Made,” a collaboration with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, is his most ambitious shot at the mainstream to date, with harrowing imagery stacked next to a sterling hook.
The Song That You’ll Be Grooving To All Weekend in Quarantine:
Dua Lipa feat. Madonna & Missy Elliott, “Levitating” (The Blessed Madonna remix)
Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia album functions like the best type of party mix: the songs sound familiar but fresh, and the tempo never dips until the very end when the lights turn on with “Boys Will Be Boys.” The album features zero guest vocalists, but with a new remix of the disco-tinged highlight “Levitating” — courtesy of the Blessed Madonna, and featuring Madonna and Missy Elliott — Lipa has invited some legendary friends to her hang session. “Levitating” is rearranged here, its glittery production stretched in new directions until nearly unrecognizable, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the pleasure of hearing Lipa and Madge sashay above it before Missy strides in and lays down an unshakeable flow.
The EP That Lets a Country Star Roam Outside of Country:
Kane Brown, Mixtape Vol. 1
Last summer, Ed Sheeran released an album, No. 6 Collaborations Project, that served as a full-length excuse for the stadium-playing superstar to try on some new styles, and offer some down-the-middle pop gems, alongside a diverse roster of guests. Mixtape Vol. 1, a new seven-song collection from country star Kane Brown, operates in a similar fashion, allowing the singer-songwriter to take on some unexpected features — Swae Lee, Khalid and John Legend pop up on the track list — while mixing in straightforward country-pop on tracks like “Didn’t Know What Love Was” and “BFE.” If Brown’s official follow-up to 2018’s Experiment ends up a more traditional country affair, Mixtape Vol. 1 still serves as a useful project for a multi-talented artist.
The Music Video That Will Produce a Protracted “Awww”:
John Legend feat. Gary Clark Jr., “Wild”
The music video for John Legend’s “Wild” will likely be remembered for nothing that has to do with the song: toward the end of the clip, Legend’s wife Chrissy Teigen shows off a baby bump, revealing that the couple is expecting another child. Yet the headline-grabbing reveal shouldn’t completely overshadow a gorgeous visual for one of the best songs on Legend’s recent album, Bigger Love. The Gary Clark Jr. collaboration is turned into an ode for Legend and Teigen’s marriage, with wild horses, convertible rides and sunset-lit beaches serving as the surroundings for their hashtag-goals romance.
The EP With The Duet That You Absolutely Need To Hear:
Orville Peck, Show Pony EP
By now you’ve hopefully identified Orville Peck as one of the most fascinating new voices in modern country music, a classic singer-songwriter with a deep, smoky voice, an intrinsic understanding of western camp and complex songs with the LGBTQ community in mind. His long-awaited Show Pony EP makes good on his promise, as his rustic vision is impressively sprawled across six tracks… but even if you’re unfamiliar with Peck’s oeuvre, it’s high time to soak in the glorious “Legends Never Die,” a duet with Shania Twain that’s been given a video which lengthens Peck’s fringe mask and revives Twain’s legendary leopard print. “Legends Never Die,” indeed, and new legends are being created every day.
The Song That Unites Two Eras of R&B:
Alicia Keys feat. Khalid, “So Done”
Fun fact: when “Fallin’,” Alicia Keys’ debut smash, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 2001, Khalid was just three years old. Hearing Keys and Khalid croon together on the new song “So Done” makes for a special kind of synergy, as an enduring star and recent chart-topper have effortlessly identified a common ground. Over finger-snaps and hazy acoustic guitar strums, Keys and Khalid convey strength after exasperation — “I’m so, so done / Fighting myself, going through hell,” they sing — and Keys, who’s gravitated toward anthems in recent years, sounds reinvigorated while utilizing such a subtle approach. “So Done” may not be radio fodder, but it’s an important meeting of minds nonetheless.