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, it’s Kendrick Lamar’s world, and we’re just living in it; Post Malone is ready to get out of the house; and My Chemical Romance are back in grand fashion. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Fans of Kendrick Lamar do not become feverishly excited upon the arrival of a new project due to the expectation of new hits — although he does have plenty of those — or high-wattage collaborations, which towering new album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers also boasts exorbitantly, from Pharrell Williams to Portishead legend Beth Gibbons to Kodak Black. The thrill of a new Kendrick Lamar project is in its poetry, as the once-in-a-generation rapper (and literal Pulitzer Prize winner!) unpacks his observations and unflinching emotions with a singular brand of precision.
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers bursts with motifs across its 18 tracks, as Lamar spends his fifth album exploring topics ranging from wealth papering over grief to hip-hop’s relationship with transphobia, in a way that will take weeks of listening to fully comprehend. For now, one of our greats has returned, and his words are worth getting lost in once again.
Post Malone feat. Roddy Ricch, “Cooped Up”
“I’ve been waiting so long / Now I gotta resurface,” Post Malone declares on new single “Cooped Up,” which reunites the superstar with his “Wow.” remix partner Roddy Ricch and sets the stage for Posty’s long-awaited new album, Twelve Carat Toothache, by focusing on… why his new album has become long-awaited. Regardless of the reasons why Post Malone is feeling “cooped up,” hearing his wide-spanning warble on the hook here feels refreshing, a nice reminder of his power as a hit creator within a song that sounds like it could become inescapable this summer.
My Chemical Romance, “The Foundations of Decay”
No one knew if and when My Chemical Romance would return with new music following their 2013 breakup, and even their reunion tour, delayed by the pandemic in 2020 and finally about to get underway, did not come with the promise of a studio return. Yet fans suspected that, whenever MCR was ready to offer a new tune, it would be epic — and that’s the only way to describe “The Foundations of Decay,” a dizzying, six-minute showcase of the band’s tenacity that tiptoes in Gerard Way’s whispers before exploding into a heavy, hell-raising chorus. Welcome back, and three cheers to sweet revivals.
Florence + The Machine, Dance Fever
Florence + The Machine’s sweeping new album can be enjoyed on two levels: on the surface, Dance Fever offers just that, more percussion and groove injected into Florence Welch’s stately pop-rock that will play out spectacularly on tour, but a deeper read of the album results in a personal, pandemic-foregrounded project in which Welch uses lockdown to prod at her motivations and insecurities. Working with Jack Antonoff, Welch has returned with urgency, and a full-length that both casual listeners and lyrical obsessives can love.
The Chainsmokers, So Far So Good
The Chainsmokers have been many things — joke-song auteurs, pop superstars, dance-world pariahs, Internet punching bags — over the past decade, but new album So Far So Good is the first time that Drew Taggart and Alex Pall sound like they’re being themselves. All pretense shed and collaborations left on the shelf, these 13 songs are open-hearted in a way the Chainsmokers have never been before, with crackling beats and shimmering electronica soundtracking yearning falsetto on multiple tracks.
Becky G, Esquemas
Becky G’s pivot to Spanish-language music in the past five years has been exceedingly fruitful — from a commercial standpoint, sure, but also creatively, since the singer-songwriter has been able to shake up modern Latin pop music and work with some of the biggest names in the space Her voice simmers when placed alongside artists like Guaynaa, El Alfa and Karol G (the lattermost on the smash “MAMIII”) on new album Esquemas, yet moments on the solo tracks, from the affecting echoes of “Dolores” to the start-stop rhythms of “Kill Bill,” best emphasize Becky G’s appeal as an ambitious new star.