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, Polo G follows up a Hot 100 chart-topper with a dominant statement, Lorde is ready to soak up the sun on her return, and Migos reassemble like the hip-hop Avengers. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Polo G, Hall of Fame
Before “Rapstar” reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 earlier this year, Polo G was a promising rap storyteller, capable of scoring chart hits but best known for the narratives he crafted across albums. With a smash single now in his back pocket, however, the Chicago native enters Hall of Fame with a much larger spotlight fixed upon him — but thankfully doesn’t stray from the confessional mic approach that had already made him so captivating. The new album includes more surefire chart fodder, like the ferocious “No Return” with The Kid LAROI and Lil Durk, but Polo G shines brightest when delving into his difficult upbringing, issues with fame and hopes for a prosperous future.
Lorde, “Solar Power”
After leading 2017’s Melodrama with “Green Light,” a purge of emotion that raced through tempos and accusations, Lorde’s new single “Solar Power” is a playful splash of salt water onto our faces in time for the summer. With Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers providing backing vocals and Jack Antonoff playing bass and electric guitar (along with co-producing and co-writing, as he did on the majority of Melodrama), Lorde has gathered her friends and shown them her newfound euphoria, first in an intimate acoustic format, then in a swaying sing-along when the drums kick in with a minute to spare.
Migos, Culture III
“We the forefront, but the story of our lives before music was about proving ourselves,” Offset recently told Billboard ahead of the release of Migos’ long-awaited Culture III. “We cool with that because that pressure brings humbleness and forces another side of creativity to come out.” The most prolific trio in hip-hop spent three years apart after 2018’s Culture II, but sound impossibly hungry on this sequel, which aims to reassert their gravitational pull in rap’s universe. The guests show up to the party — Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Future and Drake, the latter of whom waxes poetic for over two minutes on “Having Our Way” — but hearing Offset, Quavo and Takeoff once again effortlessly bouncing off each other is the star attraction of Culture III.
Doja Cat, “Need To Know”
This week, Doja Cat officially announced the details of her upcoming third album, Planet Her, which will feature artists like Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and Young Thug collaborating with the ascendant pop star; we’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to hear those, but until then, Doja has released a song that demonstrates why she’s become so in-demand. “Need To Know” is rife with thinly veiled innuendos and sexual demands, but it also features one of Doja Cat’s most liberated vocal performances — singing, rapping, pleading, crooning, remaining singular in her delivery and utterly fearless on the microphone.
Megan Thee Stallion, “Thot S—t”
When Megan Thee Stallion released her Tina Snow project in late 2018, she was still largely unknown in the mainstream, a Houston rap dynamo that was worth keeping an eye on. Less than three years later, as she prepares Tina Snow II, she has conquered the industry to the point where she can end a verse with “I’m the s–t per the Recording Academy,” as she does on new single “Thot S–t.” The best new artist Grammy winner is as sharp as ever on the microphone, operating over the type of simmering trap beat that was an early calling card, and throwing out a hook that’s primed for re-opened clubs this summer.
Maroon 5, Jordi
Maroon 5 are not known as an “album band” — that is, Adam Levine’s long-running pop outfit have made radio hits their calling card for nearly two decades, and those hits are occasionally gathered along with some interesting detours on full-lengths. Yet Jordi, the group’s first album since 2017’s Red Pill Blues, feels different: named after their manager and friend Jordan Feldstein, who died of a heart attack at the age of 40, the project carries a sense of melancholy, across singles like “Memories,” posthumous appearances by Juice WRLD and Nipsey Hussle, and new tracks like the bittersweet “Lost.”
Kelsea Ballerini & LANY, “I Quit Drinking”
While you can turn on most country radio stations for an hour and be bound to hear at least one ode to alcohol in that mix, Kelsea Ballerini and LANY position new duet “I Quit Drinking as a heartfelt subversion of that genre trope. “I quit mixing, all my drinks and feelings / It’s not fixing that you’re gone,” they sing together, Ballerini’s steady presence anchoring the collaboration while LANY’s Paul Klein opts to dial up the emotion on the lovely post-breakup track.
On the same day that Lorde has come back with a long-awaited new single, another one of the most exciting young songwriters in modern pop, Clairo, has done the same — this time with Lorde singing backing vocals on new single “Blouse,” returning the favor for Claire Cottrill’s vocals on her “Solar Power.” The hushed, sparsely arranged folk on “Blouse” is a far cry from Lorde’s fun-in-the-sun comeback track, but is no less commanding, with Clairo turning what could have been a throwaway observation — “Why do I tell you how I feel? / When you’re too busy looking down my blouse” — into the heartbreaking centerpiece of her return.