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, Morgan Wallen reaches the big leagues with a huge new project, Saweetie and Doja Cat toss out a song for BFFs, and Taylor Swift shares a few more secrets from Evermore. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Morgan Wallen, Dangerous: The Double Album
If 2020 represented a meteoric rise for country singer-songwriter Morgan Wallen, complete with a top 10 hit on the Hot 100 and enviable TV performances, Dangerous: The Double Album marks a sprawling coronation at the beginning of 2021. The massive 30-song project should flood streaming charts and continue Wallen’s mainstream takeover, thanks in part to the effortlessly tender songwriting on tracks like “Wasted On You” and “Wonderin’ Bout The Wind.”
Saweetie feat. Doja Cat, “Best Friend”
Although she’s reached as high as No. 20 on the Hot 100 chart with the riotous “Tap In,” Saweetie is a safe bet to climb even higher in 2021 — perhaps snagging her first career No. 1, as her pal Doja Cat did last year with “Say So.” Here, the two rising stars let their personalities play off each other on “Best Friend,” a quick and flavorful ode to female friendship that will no doubt be soundtracking girls’ nights in the coming months.
Taylor Swift, “Right Where You Left Me”/”It’s Time To Go”
Just like she did with Folklore, Taylor Swift saved a few ideas for the deluxe edition of its companion album Evermore, initially releasing the songs “Right Where You Left Me” and “It’s Time To Go” on physical copies of the album before they first hit streaming services this week. If these are the final songs to be unveiled from Swift’s two-album journey into the indie-folk forest, “Right Where You Left Me” (about lasting heartbreak) and “It’s Time To Go” (about sensing the end of a relationship) are gorgeous, fitting codas.
After dabbling in different shades throughout his 2020 singles, Zayn plows forward with “Vibez,” a winning return to the R&B that helped define his 2016 debut Mind of Mine, but with a more seasoned vocal approach a half-decade later. “Vibez” contains a buttery texture, as if he’s spent some of his downtime exploring the wonders of ‘90s R&B; it suits Zayn’s voice, and sets up a promising year.
Kings of Leon, “The Bandit”/”100,000 People”
Kings of Leon have opened what’s sure to be a busy year with some muscle: on “The Bandit” and “100,000 People,” both of which preview the March album When You See Yourself, the Tennessee quartet deploy their riffs and vocal hooks with a swagger that keeps the listener engaged even as the run time rolls on. The group’s new album was produced by Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons), who seems to have encouraged a shaggier approach without sacrificing any of the band’s anthemic appeal.
Jazmine Sullivan, Heaux Tales
Any hardcore R&B fan is quick to sing the praises of Jazmine Sullivan, a singer-songwriter with a spectacular voice who often makes her fans wait patiently for new projects. Heaux Tales, her first full-length since 2015 (and second of the past decade), masterfully tells the stories of the women in Sullivan’s life, sparkling with both intimate details (via multiple interludes) and universal truths; “Lost Ones” is a new Jazmine classic, and the torch-passing H.E.R. collaboration “Girl Like Me” might be even better.
Zara Larsson feat. Young Thug, “Talk About Love”
The title of Zara Larsson’s new single refers to something that the pop star does not want to do just yet with her new romantic partner: “I just want to keep it right here, in the moment/ Why you gotta go get lost in emotion?” she asks. Young Thug shows up to assist on the snappy new single, leaning into the rap-lothario portion of his persona in between Larsson’s refrains.
Jhay Cortez & Myke Towers, “Los Bo”
Prolific singer-songwriter Jhay Cortez received a huge assist from Bad Bunny late last year with the top 10 smash “Dákiti”; meanwhile, rapper Myke Towers had a busy year himself, including a guest spot with Anitta and Cardi B on “Me Gusta.” On “Los Bo,” the Puerto Rican artists link up to keep the momentum going, furiously spitting over an elegant beat and reminding casual fans that they can each capably handle leading-man duties on a hit single.