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, Miley Cyrus’ rock revolution lives up to the hype, Bad Bunny is relentless in his excellence and Jennifer Lopez tosses out another winner. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Album That Will Make You Want To Tease Your Hair ASAP:
Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts
Hours after Miley Cyrus released her new album Plastic Hearts, “Hannah Montana” was trending on Twitter, with fans nodding to the similarities between the superstar’s new opus and her early pop-rock sound as a Disney star. It’s a reductive comparison, for a few reasons — no Hannah Montana album ever featured Billy Idol, for one, or included a chorus that starts with an urgent “What the f–k do I know!” — but most importantly, Cyrus’ glam-rock pivot draws upon her decade of delivering whip-smart lyrics and enormous hooks to arrive fully formed and often spectacular. As electric guitar solos careen into each other and drums crash in with arena-ready heft, Cyrus relies upon her sharpened pop instincts to tackle the sonic exploration; witness “Angels Like You,” a lighters-up, you’re-too-good-for-me anthem with a genuinely moving vocal take from Cyrus, who will never stop being fascinating.
The Album That Caps Off a Year For the Record Books:
Bad Bunny, El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo
With two albums already released in 2020, including the groundbreaking YHLQMDLG, global superstar Bad Bunny could have taken the entire fourth quarter of the year off and still have dominated Latin pop. After the Jhay Cortez collaboration “Dákiti” morphed into a top 10 smash in recent weeks, Bad Bunny is already back with a new album for the single to call home: El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo, which translates to ‘The Last Tour of the World,’ is somehow just as progressive as YHLQMDLG. Reggaeton intermingles with jangly indie rock, sometimes within one track (“Maldita Pobreza”), and Bad Bunny delivers killer choruses after stretching the limits of his range (listen to his flow collapse onto itself on “Booker T”). Rosalia and ABRA also stop by a project that is far from a victory lap for Bad Bunny — El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo is the sound of a restless genius, deep in his bag and yanking out gems.
The Song That Continues a Veteran’s Latest Hot Streak:
Jennifer Lopez, “In The Morning”
After recently teaming up with Maluma for a pair of tracks (and a sultry American Music Awards performance), Jennifer Lopez uses “In The Morning” to demonstrate her continued power as a solo artist before the year comes to a close. “In The Morning” recalls some of J. Lo’s most fiercely loved early hits like “If You Had My Love,” with a more swaggering confidence and unabashedly sexual lyrics; Lopez has worn many hats over the course of her career, but still knows how to comfortably navigate a rhythmic pop track like this. Although she hasn’t released a proper album since 2014, Lopez’s strong 2020 output must have fans hoping the next one is not too far away.
The Song That Kicks Off The Holiday Season With Some Romance:
Sabrina Claudio feat. The Weeknd, “Christmas Blues”
“It’s been a long year / The toughest of my life so far,” Sabrina Claudio sings to open “Christmas Blues”; normally such a line would be an eyebrow-raising beginning to a holiday song, but in 2020, it’s about par for the course. On the new track, which highlights the Puerto Rican/Cuban singer-songwriter’s eight-song Christmas project of the same name, Claudio taps The Weeknd for a sensual duet, both longing for a feeling of calm with a loved one at the end of a tumultuous year. “Christmas Blues” combines the talents of a pop superstar and underrated R&B artist for a smart, soothing twist on your typical holiday fare.
The Song That Will Make You Long For a Socially Distanced Mosh Pit (Do Those Exist?):
SAINt JHN feat. Kanye West, “Smack DVD”
One week ago, “Roses” star SAINt JHN released a 13-song new album, While The World Was Burning, which included a Kanye West collaboration, “Pray 4 Me.” He’s already back with another West team-up, which is more dynamic than the one that made the album track list: “Smack DVD” finds SAINt JHN taking a blowtorch to your senses and begging you to play its trap beat until your walls rattle, while Yeezy once again offers politically provocative bars: “Could you talk to the mayor, ’bout Breonna Taylor? / I talked to the president for her, giving my life to the Lord.” Whenever artists are once again able to safely tour post-pandemic, SAINt JHN has another crowd-pleaser at his disposal.