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, Lil Nas X at long last reveals his next act, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello present a high-wattage pairing and Mark Ronson is dancing, but certainly not on his own. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Project That’s Got The Horses In The Front, and In The Back, Too:
Lil Nas X, 7 EP
How exactly does an artist follow up one of the most successful — and eccentric — debut singles of all time? It’s the question the music world has been asking as Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” has continued racking up weeks (11 and counting!) at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Months after coming quite literally out of nowhere to unveil a year-defining jam, he has finally answered that question with 7, an EP that begins and ends with versions of “Old Town Road” and lets Lil Nas X gleefully mess with genre conventions in between. “Panini” interpolates Nirvana and “Rodeo” introduces Cardi B to X’s western-trap aesthetic; both songs work well, but the most fascinating moment here is “F9mily (You & Me),” a pop-rock track produced by Travis Barker that imagines the chameleonic rapper as a new-school punk frontman. Lil Nas X has already upended all expectations with “Old Town Road,” and continues to do so with his impressive first project.
The Song That Revisits A Previously Successful Pairing:
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, “Señorita”
A lot has changed since Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello first linked up on a track — for one, the 2015 top 20 hit “I Know What You Did Last Summer” was released back when Cabello was still a member of Fifth Harmony, first exploring a solo career that would eventually lead to undeniable stardom. Mendes, meanwhile, has grown into a more confident songwriter and vocalist; both his bulked-up skillset and Cabello’s natural charisma are on display on “Señorita,” a slinky new single from the longtime friends. A pure duet that lets Cabello and Mendes trade words on romantic allure, “Señorita” features a muted arrangement with unobtrusive acoustic licks — better for the two singers to dominate the spotlight themselves.
The Album That You Can Cry, Dance and Cry-Dance To:
Mark Ronson, Late Night Feelings
Not only is Mark Ronson one of the century’s most prominent pop producers, he’s also one of its most ambidextrous: after rising to fame by helming Amy Winehouse’s timeless Back to Black, the 43-year-old Brit has at this point produced a full Queens of the Stone Age album, won an Oscar for a Lady Gaga collaboration and owned 2015 with “Uptown Funk!,” his Bruno Mars pop mega-smash. New album Late Night Feelings opts to follow up that latter achievement by not attempting to duplicate its enormity; instead, this collection of self-described “sad bangers” is wonderfully intimate, with artists like Camila Cabello, Lykke Li and King Princess stopping by to contribute to a disco-tinged downbeat mood. More than any Ronson album before it, Late Night Feelings carries a singular vibe — contemplative dance music for headphones, perfect for grooving along to late at night in a bedroom alone.
The Song For Both Your Next Country Festival and Rave:
Marshmello feat. Kane Brown, “One Thing Right”
Kudos for Marshmello for earning the Most Diverse Collaborators 2019 title thus far, as the A-list producer has worked with Chvrches, Tyga, A Day To Remember and Roddy Ricch in recent months. Next up: country phenom Kane Brown, fresh off of remix work with Khalid and Camila Cabello himself. “One Thing Right” does not pull Brown into the dance world as forcefully as Marshmello’s smash “Happier” did with Bastille, but instead gravitates more toward Brown’s country approach; when the drop does arrive, it takes the form of a piercing faux-guitar solo with layered harmonies and double-time beats. Marshmello does not flinch at unfamiliar sounds or styles, and “One Thing Right” continues a streak of compelling singles as a fish somewhat out of water.
The Song That Serves As The Speedy Return of a Queen:
Nicki Minaj, “Megatron”
“It ain’t about the race, either, it’s a marathon.” So spits Nicki Minaj, one of the most dynamic hip-hop voices of the past decade, on new single “Megatron,” which offers a quick turnaround from last year’s Queen album to reassert Minaj’s role as a sun in the rap solar system. Alternating between rapping, singing and firing off “brrra-ta-ta-ta!” exclamations, Minaj sounds particularly at ease here, regaining a steady pace while shrugging off her naysayers. New York hip-hop fans now have a new song to add to their summer playlists.
The Album For Garage-Rock Revival Nostalgists:
The Raconteurs, Help Us Stranger
Amidst his sonic detours and genre-mashing experiments, Jack White still knows how to write a kickass rock song. Following last year’s solo album Boarding House Reach, in which White let his freak flag proudly fly, the Raconteurs’ new full-length Help Us Stranger not only returns White to his band with Brendan Benson that hasn’t released an album in over a decade, but also to a more straightforward, meat-and-potatoes songwriting that doesn’t fall too far down any rabbit holes and is effective because of it. Lead track and single “Bored and Razed” becomes an immediate refresher for how powerful White can be when operating in this band format; meanwhile, “Live a Lie” is a throwback to his late-00’s heyday that White Stripes fans should lap up.
The Song That Will Make You Deeply Miss a Gone-Too-Soon Star:
88-Keys feat. Mac Miller and Sia, “That’s Life”
Previously unreleased Mac Miller music is starting to officially trickle out following the rapper’s tragic passing at the age of 26 last year, and “That’s Life,” which was recorded in 2015 and is finally seeing the light of day as an official single, is the most emotionally affecting posthumous Miller release yet. Part of the cause for the lump in your throat while listening is the subject matter: Miller ruminates on using drugs as a coping mechanism, and at one point declares, “And I’m headed to the other side, where the grass is always greener.” Sia provides the bridge and the outro, and 88-Keys gives the song an elegantly soulful backdrop, but both wisely cede the moment to Miller, whose words take on a deeper meaning here than he ever could have predicted.
The Song That Preaches IRL Connections:
Stefflon Don feat. Lil Baby, “Phone Down”
Part of being in a relationship in the smartphone age is having to gently remind the person you’re with to put that magical rectangle down and engage in actual conversation. It happens to the best of us! And now, British rapper Stefflon Don has turned that sentiment into a rallying cry for her new single. “Phone Down” features an especially playful Lil Baby verse — who croons inquisitively, “What’s so important you can’t ignore it?” — and Stefflon shines over the crackling rhythms while eye-rolling over the guy who’s too busy to pay attention to her money moves. Ultimately, “Phone Down” serves as Stefflon Don’s most pleasurable single since her breakthrough, “Hurtin’ Me” with French Montana, and may gain traction in the States.