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, Post Malone gives us a Toothache for the summer, Polo G is back after a monster year, and Panic! At The Disco still has high hopes for their new material. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Post Malone, Twelve Carat Toothache
Post Malone possesses several qualities — effortless charm, singing and rapping dexterity, effective songwriting, smart collaborative choices –that have made him a superstar over the past half-decade, but at the top of that list has to be his ear for melody, a gift that has enabled him to make the leap from hip-hop to pop, alternative and hard rock with a full supply of hooks that make sense in each category. Twelve Carat Toothache weaves in and out of styles and moods, but that melodic understanding guides the long-awaited follow-up to Hollywood’s Bleeding, allowing a song with Fleet Foxes and another with The Kid LAROI to make sense side-by-side on the track list. Posty addresses love, betrayal, substance abuse and personal growth at different points on the album, but each hummable moment transforms his point of view into the universal, as if the ideas sprouting from his mind are destined to get stuck in your own.
Polo G, “Distraction”
As his national profile has expanded, Chicago hip-hop star Polo G has impressively pivoted from telling the story of his hard-fought come-up to reflecting on the details of his fame, including the naysayers trying to discredit his talent and his personal fears of losing it all. “Distraction,” Polo’s first solo single of the year after a breakthrough 2021, finds the MC addressing outside doubt with incredulity (“Cheered ’til I hit the top, now they can’t wait to see me plummet / Like, for every win, another L come punch me in my stomach”), and grasping for peace in his new reality (“Left my heart on that notepad, and that still wasn’t enough”), with grace and candor.
Panic! At The Disco, “Viva Las Vengeance”
Four years after Panic! At The Disco’s Pray For The Wicked — an album that became an unexpected commercial apex for Brendon Urie, thanks in part to smashes like “High Hopes” and “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” — the singer-songwriter returns with a single that thankfully doesn’t attempt to recreate that pop-radio success, and instead goes full-on, riveting rock opera. “Viva Las Vengeance” is knowingly cinematic in its structure and approach, but Urie has the chops (and vocal range) to pull it off; by those lung-piercing final few seconds, Urie has lured us fully into the drama, and primed us for the next Panic! full-length.
070 Shake, You Can’t Kill Me
The title to 070 Shake’s sophomore album refers to the timelessness of art and that her work is an enduring extension of her physical self: “You can’t kill me because I’m more than my body,” she says in a press statement. That mindset helps explain the complex, personal and, above all, daring nature of the follow-up to 2020’s Modus Vivendi, which smashes genres together and positions Shake’s assertive voice as a through-line, whether it’s as a robo-symphony on the booming “Invited” or a lonely shot to the heart on the slow-growing “Come Back Home.”
Megan Thee Stallion, “Plan B” video
Megan Thee Stallion’s “Plan B” has become a hip-hop radio staple since its April release, demonstrating Meg’s ability to score hits with pop crossovers as well as a gritty, no-holds-barred rap teardown of her exes. The new music video for “Plan B” smartly keeps the focus on its creator, with Megan rapping in front of a black background and swapping outfits while rattling off the barbed lyrics with ease — “Plan B” has succeeded without frills, and its video now has as well.
Bo Burnham, The Inside Outtakes
“Phenomenon” is an apt description for Bo Burnham: Inside, the self-made, pandemic-friendly Netflix comedy special that became an out-of-nowhere sensation last year and produced one of the biggest comedy albums of the past decade. Inside (The Songs) has now received a deluxe edition to mark the special’s first anniversary, and despite a 20-minute run time, the album offers plenty of occasions to sardonically chuckle, from the unbothered-white-guys ode “1985” to a 51-second lamentation/dance groove titled “Biden.”