Feeling overwhelmed by the new songs, albums and videos being unveiled today? You’re not alone. 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 continues her latest winning streak, Megan Thee Stallion invites Nicki Minaj to participate in Hot Girl Summer, and Rick Ross remains a boss in the rap game. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Song That Continues A Pop Star’s 2019 Revival:
Katy Perry, “Small Talk”
After linking with Zedd for her previous 2019 singles “365” and “Never Really Over,” Katy Perry has wrangled Charlie Puth to co-write and co-produce her latest radio offering, a deeply entertaining reflection on the very adult feeling of reverting to stranger status with a significant other post-breakup. “Isn’t it weird, that you’ve seen me naked / We had conversations about forever, now it’s about the weather, okay,” Perry sighs, unhappy with this strange but common phenomenon. Puth helps Perry craft an effectively playful lyrical concept, but Perry continues a successful year with a nuanced, winning vocal take; “Small Talk” is one of the most immediate pop songs of the year, and KatyCats can point to their favorite artist’s quirky charm as the main reason.
The Song To Add To Your Already-Created ‘Hot Girl Summer’ Playlist:
Megan Thee Stallion feat. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign, “Hot Girl Summer”
Hot Girl Summer is still in full effect, and the phrase coined by Megan Thee Stallion gets its own all-star tribute with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign joining the new Houston superstar. Hearing Minaj’s reliably animated flow alongside Megan’s trunk-rattling rumble, with Ty’s buttery voice deployed to break up the action on the chorus, makes for a predictably entertaining few minutes. Yet the main takeaway of “Hot Girl Summer” is that Megan Thee Stallion rules it: as her verse dips in and out of gentle singsong, she tosses out quotable lyrics with ease, and sounds like she could make any man crumble with the sneering “Thinking he’s a player? He’s a member on the team.” Hot Girl Summer is Megan’s game, and she will not stop winning.
The Album That Offers a Comprehensive Snapshot of Modern Hip-Hop:
Rick Ross, Port of Miami 2
The first Port of Miami, released in 2006, found Rick Ross playing the role of intriguing newcomer, with an undeniable smash in “Hustlin’” and a fresh perspective. Thirteen years later, the unflappable MC has offered a sequel that’s grounded in his experience as both a lyricist and expert collaborator. Port of Miami 2 unwittingly serves as a sort of time capsule for Ross’ decade-plus career: there are fellow veterans like Jeezy and Swiss Beatz in the mix, relative newcomers like Denzel Curry and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and of course, Drake, a frequent partner who shines again on the album-ending “Gold Roses.” Yet Port of Miami 2 is Ross’ court to hold, and he does so effortlessly across 15 tracks; he’s still spitting heavy words about being a boss in between Maybach Music drops, but the kid from “Hustlin’” is all grown up.
The Album That Will Make Your Neck Hurt From Extended Head-Thrashing:
Slipknot, We Are Not Your Kind
Earlier this summer, Slipknot celebrated the 20th anniversary of its self-titled 1999 debut, a seminal moment in metal music that the band has sustained into an extended career by never sacrificing its sense of self. On one hand, We Are Not Your Kind, the group’s first album in five years, is classic Slipknot, an opus of bleak energy that is both technically dazzling and emotionally pummeling. Yet the degree of difficulty, the high intensity that Slipknot has kept up for two decades and continues here, should not be undersold. The one-two punch of the racing “Critical Darling” and raw ballad “A Liar’s Funeral” represents the band at its best: multi-faceted and unyielding, truly worthy of such a long run.
The Album That Will Make You Reach For Your Respective Handkerchief:
Tori Kelly, Inspired By True Events
Tori Kelly’s latest release technically contains 16 tracks, although four of them are not songs — the singer has included a quartet of interludes with dated titles that feature audio from old home movies (“12/16/1992,” for instance, captures Kelly’s parents, glowing a few days after her birth). The concept makes Inspired By True Events, which was naturally going to be another showcase for Kelly’s soaring voice, into a more personally revealing affair than her previous output. It’s more emotional, too: “3/26/1994,” lifted from a family funeral prayer, is followed by the wrenching “Your Words,” a meditation on the hollowness of loss. Kelly has already worn different hats in the music world, transitioning from Top 40 pop to gospel music, but Inspired By True Events nicely streamlines her gifts as a storyteller.
The Album That Every Indie-Rock Fan is About To (Rightly) Hype Up:
Bon Iver, i,i
Three years ago, Justin Vernon traded in the rustic folk-rock foundation of his Bon Iver project for something much more experimental and electronics-based on the album 22, A Million. The modern production techniques remain on new album i,i, although they have become warmer and less inscrutable, as Vernon’s elegant falsetto delivers self-examining lyrics about family and typically earthy metaphors. Even if Bon Iver never returns to the acoustic minimalism of For Emma, Forever Ago, Vernon wisely keeps the spotlight on his voice on his new project, and it’s comforting to hear his most indispensable instrument offered across 13 tracks. And hey, even if you’re only into old-school Bon Iver, the stripped-down and beautiful new song “Marion” is worth discovering.
The Album To Play While You’re Getting Ready To Go Out This Weekend:
Bazzi, Soul Searching
“I’m the same old kid with the high school dreams/Got my eye on the prize, get it by any means,” Bazzi declares on “No Way!,” a standout track on his new mixtape. Over the course of his short career, Bazzi has certainly radiated a certain tirelessness: he’s been a prolific recording artist and touring entity, and has never once slacked off on a vocal take. Soul Searching features a standard mix of pop-R&B with hip-hop flourishes, but Bazzi dutifully sells it — and himself, as a mainstream artist worth betting on following last year’s breakthrough with “Mine.” Soul Searching ends with a self-lacerating ballad titled “Who Am I?”; Bazzi is still answering that question, but has put in work to invite us along for the ride.
The Song That’s More Than Its One Headline-Grabbing Lyric:
SAINt JHN feat. Meek Mill, “Anything Can Happen”
“Anything Can Happen” will likely be remembered as the song in which its featured artist, Meek Mill, comments on Kanye West’s support of President Trump (“I’m watching Kanye on the television, talkin’ Trump… he’s supporting him (damn),” he raps). And that’s a fair main takeaway! But “Anything Can Happen” also serves as another gem in Brooklyn newcomer SAINt JHN’s impressive singles collection. After shining with the track “I Heard You Got Too Litt Last Night” last year, JHN once again croons with little abandon, conjuring a feverish hip-hop atmosphere before ceding the floor to his famous guest.