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, Katy Perry has a compelling new sound, G-Eazy returns with fangs bared, and Becky G unveils her long-awaited full-length. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Song That Will Make You Book That Trip To The Big Island:
Katy Perry, “Harleys in Hawaii”
For the first time in over a decade, Katy Perry is taking the offbeat path as a pop star, trying out different (unexpected) styles before returning with a proper full-length. Following the maximalist electro-stomp of “Never Really Over” and the quirky lamentation that was “Small Talk,” “Harleys in Hawaii” offers something slower and dreamier, but no less appealing. The starry-eyed romance of the Teenage Dream era is back, but the hook here is more low-key and wisened, as if riding motorcycles in Hawaii is a pleasure that comes with time. Perry has another winner with this track, which begs to be grouped with her other 2019 singles on a proper project.
The EP With That One Track You Need To Hear Over and Over:
G-Eazy, Scary Nights EP
First things first: “I Wanna Rock,” a new G-Eazy single with Gunna, is an absolute scorcher, a brash team-up in which the two artists form an explosive compound. The track is positioned in the second spot on G-Eazy’s new Scary Nights EP and effectively reminds hip-hop fans what he’s capable of, following a slightly prolonged break after his The Beautiful & Damned album in 2017 that was broken up by a B-sides release earlier this year. G-Eazy sounds rejuvenated on the low-stakes project: he likens himself to a No Limit soldier on the title track, then holds himself admirably next to French Montana and Moneybagg Yo on “Full Time Cappers.” And even if this EP proves to be a stopgap before his next album is released, it’s good to hear G-Eazy back on his game and unfurling another must-hear single.
The Album That Is Well Worth The (Very Long) Wait:
Becky G, Mala Santa
At long last, we have the Becky G full-length statement we’ve been waiting for, years in the making but no less enthralling than expected. The 22-year-old has been an artist worth paying attention to for over a half-decade, beginning as an intriguing electro-pop voice before transitioning into Latin pop and reggaeton, and while there are some holdovers from earlier eras on Mala Santa — “Mayores” with Bad Bunny was released over two years ago — the majority of the long-awaited LP is fresh and largely riveting. The title track demonstrates Becky’s command as a Spanish-language singer-rapper, while “Peleas” hints at acoustic balladry before the drums kick in and she swerves into another anthem. Although Mala Santa has experienced its fair share of delays, Becky G is releasing her first album as a fully formed artist.
The Remix That Pairs a K-Pop World-Conqueror With a Promising Pop Presence:
BTS feat. Lauv, “Make It Right” Remix
BTS has long been thoughtful about which U.S. artists make sense as musical collaborators without ever betraying their aesthetic; for a remix to “Make It Right,” they’ve tapped Lauv, a pop singer-songwriter whose vulnerability and light touch fit right into the group’s world. Although Lauv’s opening verse isn’t given much emotional depth — “I was lost, I was tryna find the answer / In the world around me / Yeah I was going crazy, all day, all night,” he laments — he impressively handles the falsetto on the hook, which Ed Sheeran helped write for the BTS boys. And, as happened on the Map of the Soul: Persona standout, BTS picks up from where Lauv leaves off and brings “Make It Right” home.
The Album That Shows An MC Still at a High Level, 100 Albums In:
Gucci Mane, Woptober II
“I want the cash, I don’t want the credit,” Gucci Mane asserts on “Big Boy Diamonds,” his Kodak Black collaboration on his latest (and 101st overall!) album. Give Gucci both: the Atlanta vet has set rap music’s prolific cadence in the streaming era while also remaining one of its more commercially viable and consistently enjoyable personalities. Woptober II is vintage Gucci, but the 13-song project also avoids the bloat of even some of his greatest full-lengths; meanwhile, consecutive features by DaBaby, Youngboy Never Broke Again, Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Baby to open the album shows how much juice the elder statesman still carries.
The Album In Which A Promising New Rapper Proves Herself:
Kash Doll, Stacked
Detroit native Kash Doll has been on such a hot streak as a singles artist that her new full-length would succeed if it only housed some of her more recent hits. Fortunately, Stacked offers more of the undeniable hook construction and sharp bursts of energy found on “Ice Me Out” and the Big Sean collaboration “Ready Set.” Opener “KD Diary” will inevitably draw comparisons to the origin-story intro “Get Up 10” on Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, but a song like the pissed-off, unrelenting “Cheap Shit” shows just how unique of a hip-hop presence Kash Doll can be. Whether or not Stacked is your introduction to the rising MC, Kash Doll has proven that she’s worth following.
The Song That Adds Another Layer to a Hard Rock Legacy:
Marilyn Manson, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
Those who haven’t been paying attention to Marilyn Manson’s music career since his shock-rock heyday have been missing out on a rewarding and endlessly interesting exploration of heavy music over the past 20 years. Manson reworking the folk standard “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” — a tune sung by Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, among others — for a vinyl single release is not all that shocking given the type of genre excursions he’s performed in recent years. That said, this version gets some Manson touchstones, from the alluring snarl of his vocal take to a music video with some creepy buried-alive imagery. Even on a cover of a folk tune, Manson will make sure his freak flag is proudly flying.
The EP That’s Perfect For a Quiet Sunday Morning at Home:
Maddie & Tae, Everywhere I’m Goin’ EP
The country duo of Maddie Marlow and Taylor Dye have been cranking out solid country-pop tracks throughout the back half of the 2010s, but with new EP Everywhere I’m Goin’ — a continuation of their One Heart To Another release from earlier this year — they are more cohesively pairing their sweetness with their storytelling. The Dierks Bentley duet “Lay Here With Me” is a genuinely affecting ode to partners finding peace amongst exasperation, while the title track channels a feeling of romantic completion through gorgeous harmonies. Maddie & Tae haven’t released a proper album in four years, but there’s an impressive fullness to the sound and style on the five-song Everywhere I’m Goin’.