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, Future returns with some new risks, Katy Perry is lovingly covered in “Daisies” and Jonas Brothers can’t slow down. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Album That FutureHive Has Been Waiting On For a While:
Future, High Off Life
This July marks the five-year anniversary of Future’s landmark album DS2, and ever since then the Atlanta rap star has been refining his darkly lit, hedonistic commercial trap, to great effect. At first blush, new album High Off Life sounds like Future being Future — booming beats, major guests, luxury brand name-checks and dissatisfaction among the dollars — but a closer look reveals an experimentation with flow and sound, often based on who’s featured on the track alongside him. “All Bad” finds Future going toe-to-toe with Lil Uzi Vert’s star-hopping space-rap, while “Solitaires” is the Future visit to Travis Scott’s Astroworld we’ve always wanted; elsewhere, “HiTek Tek” lets him contort his voice to a degree we haven’t heard yet. In between the obvious hits, High Off Life showcases Future taking more risks in stylistic approach, and that evolution is well-earned.
The Song That Will Serve As Your Instant-Inspiration For The Week:
Katy Perry, “Daisies”
It’s fair to say that, when Katy Perry announced the release of the first single from her next album, anyone paying close attention still wouldn’t know quite what to expect. Would it sound like her last LP, 2017’s Witness, at all? What about the string of singles from last year, some of which were quite successful? And would it address her impending motherhood? In the end, “Daisies” sounds like a fresh beginning, with Perry singing about her personal resilience in an adult-contemporary style reminiscent of her mid-tempo ballad “Unconditionally.” “Took those sticks and stones, showed ‘em I could build a house,” sings Perry, who defined mainstream U.S. pop a decade ago and is now demonstrating an impressive ability to shine in a new time.
The Song That Will Have You Sashaying Around Your Living Room:
Jonas Brothers feat. Karol G, “X”
Give Jonas Brothers credit for refusing to rest on their laurels: following the enormous success of last year’s comeback LP Happiness Begins, the trio keeps swinging the bat and collecting hits. While “What A Man Gotta Do” kept the momentum going earlier this year, “X” is even better, an ambitious Latin pop crossover featuring a hint of horns and a hook that recalls Joe Jonas’ DNCE days. The JoBros were wise to tap Karol G, who dominates the song’s back half with a slowed-down sultriness and plays the right foil for the band’s call for movement. “Far from a victory lap, “X” suggests that there’s still ample pop territory for the reunited Jonas Brothers to cover.
The Album That Cements a Rising Rap Star:
Polo G, The GOAT
There is no modern hip-hop artist quite like Polo G: the Chicago native can adeptly score crossover hits (as he did on the 2019 smash “Pop Out”), contribute to posse cuts (like the excellent “Go Stupid” with Stunna 4 Vegas and NLE Choppa) and unfurl compelling narratives about his come-up and current trajectory, the latter of which comprised last year’s breakthrough album, Die A Legend. Follow-up The GOAT is equally multi-faceted and revealing as its predecessor — for every potential radio track, such as the Lil Baby team-up “Be Something” or the posthumous Juice WRLD collaboration “Flex,” there are open-hearted street testimonials like “21” and “Heartless.” Polo G invites you into his world when he raps, and The GOAT represents another fascinating journey inside of it.
The Album That Will Make You Feel Lazy in Quarantine:
Charli XCX, How I’m Feeling Now
The ever-prolific Charli XCX was already working on a new album following the release of Charli last September when the coronavirus pandemic forced her into quarantine; there, she decided to make a totally different album, and gave herself a deadline of May 15 to finish it. As a result of its creative process, How I’m Feeling Now comes across like a burst of spontaneous energy, unapologetic in its presentation yet dazzlingly rendered as a snapshot of the singer-songwriter’s current state. If the songs here are less polished than those on Charli, they’re also more propulsive, as tracks like “Detonate,” “I Finally Understand” and “Anthems” streak forward with a commitment to her voice-melting, synth-laden approach. “I just wanna go real hard,” Charli sings on the opener “Pink Diamond,” and proceeds to spend the next 37 minutes doing so in a flash of pop beauty.
The Album To Consider For All of Your Year-End Lists:
Perfume Genius, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Perfume Genius mastermind Mike Hadreas has slowly become an indie star by resisting the way modern music is often consumed — he has released songs ripe for alt-pop playlists, sure, yet his albums beg for burrowing, and welcome deeper analysis of each cacophonous blast, fragile vocal tone and stark accompanying image in the album jacket. Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is no different in the patience it demands: while a track like “On The Floor” is among the most danceable of Hadreas’ career, songs like the hymn-like opener “Whole Life” and the moving “Your Body Changes Everything,” racing and rich with strings, only unveil deeper meaning with repeated listens. Pore over every lyric, search for previously unheard sounds, and appreciate what Perfume Genius has created with his latest opus.
The Album To Put On When You’re Seeking Comfort:
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Reunions
Finding peace in solitude, reconciling inner demons, searching for forgiveness within yourself — these are all common themes in Jason Isbell’s songwriting, and appear again on Reunions, his latest with the 400 Unit. Yet the songs here are so gorgeously imagined, from the detail in Isbell’s lyrics to the breathtaking musicianship of his backing band, that it’s hard not to get swept up in every single tale. Re-teaming with producer Dave Cobb, Isbell sounds just as steadfast on a well-rounded rocker like “What’ve I Done To Help” as he does on the hushed, restrained “St. Peter’s Autograph,” his voice forever vulnerable but never fully cracking. Isbell has paved such a distinct lane for himself that Reunions can be both another sumptuous treat for longtime fans and a gateway into his world for newcomers.
The Song That You’ll Be Itching To Hear in a Crowded Festival Field:
Kygo & OneRepublic, “Lose Somebody”
“Sometimes you gotta lose somebody / Just to find out you really love someone,” goes the chorus of the new Kygo-OneRepublic team-up “Lose Somebody.” The sentiment is as universal as one would expect from the pairing of a superstar producer and pop-rock hitmakers: both parties understand how to appeal to the masses, and their new collaboration is certainly designed to soothe the mainstream. Kygo’s production here relies upon space, as he is careful to give Ryan Tedder ample room to emote; the lack of a traditional drop gives the song a streamlined feel that is easy to return to and sing along with.
The Album That Made for a Most Pleasant Mother’s Day Surprise:
Bad Bunny, Las Que No Iban A Salir
Bad Bunny could have taken the rest of 2020 off and still considered the year one of his most professionally fruitful, considering how well his most recent album, YHLQMDLG, has performed since its February release. Instead, the Puerto Rican superstar is already back with a vengeance, and seemingly for the sake of all the moms out there. Las Que No Iban A Salir, a 10-song surprise album released on Mother’s Day, serves as a fine companion piece to its more robust predecessor, with musings on quarantine life and delightful collaborations with Nicky Jam, Yandel and reggaeton vet Don Omar. Most affecting, however, is final track “En Casita,” a duet with Bad Bunny’s girlfriend Gabriela Berlingeri that provides an intimate look at their current locked-down lives.