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, Rosalía embarks on a bold new era, Normani continues to dazzle and Charli XCX has a fresh set of pop treats. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Rosalía’s second album, 2018’s El Mal Querer, turned the Spanish singer-songwriter into a singular star, with a new vision of flamenco that incorporated electronic and hip-hop music and subsequently earned critical raves and new fans across the globe. El Mal Querer is a lot to live up to, and MOTOMAMI is the first album Rosalía has released as an A-lister… but instead of shrinking from the spotlight, she has shaken up expectations like a snow globe, letting new influences and sounds naturally fall around her persona. MOTOMAMI includes vocal showcases, dembow riffs, bachata breaks, starry-eyed pop, Auto-Tune crooning and some of the most spirited rapping you’ll hear anywhere in 2022, as Rosalía creates a sonic playground both unforeseen and breathtaking.
One of the reasons why anticipation for Normani’s proper debut project remains so high is her versatility — the former Fifth Harmony star has always been able to apply her talents across genre lines and song structures, and that skill has only grown with time. “Fair” represents a deep-bass R&B mid-tempo ballad after nods toward pop, dance and hip-hop, and Normani pulls it off masterfully, imbuing lines like “Is it fair that you moved on? / ‘Cause I swear that I haven’t” with a post-betrayal hurt, then lifting her voice into a flutter as a cool, catchy panacea.
Charli XCX, Crash
Charli XCX’s first singles — still-brilliant tracks like “Nuclear Seasons” and “You’re The One” — first made noise online when the U.K. native was a teen; over the next decade, she has traversed the pop world, delivering lauded full-lengths, scoring hits as a solo artist and collaborator, exploring the depths of hyperpop, using the global pandemic as artistic inspiration. New album Crash harkens back to her early sound at times, but mostly, it’s the work of a gifted pop artist wholly confident in those gifts; fans will each have their favorite tracks (“Baby,” “Used To Know Me” and the title track all stand out immediately), but Charli operates at such a high level that missteps are darn near impossible.
Arcade Fire, “The Lightning I, II”
What is Arcade Fire — indie darlings turned arena conquerors, unlikely Grammy heroes and, last we saw them, dance-rockers with elaborate marketing ideas — in 2022? Five years after Everything Now, the band has previewed upcoming album We with a two-part single that’s both elaborately produced as well as back in the pocket of what they do best: “The Lightning I, II” soars before sprinting, the second half of the track allowing Win Butler to howl and harmonize, ultimately sounding like something that could have fit onto 2007’s Neon Bible and a very promising sign of things to come.
Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story”
Carrie Underwood describes new single “Ghost Story” as “a different take on a revenge song” in a press release: “Instead of smashing headlights, this scorned lover is letting her ex know that she will continue to haunt him no matter how hard he tries to forget her.” Indeed, “Ghost Story” finds a powerful balance between its driving tempo and Underwood’s reflective tone, making the most of her vocal heft as the song rolls forward but pulling back for emotional effect when needed.
Coi Leray with Nicki Minaj, “Blick Blick”
After recent single “Anxiety” demonstrated Coi Leray’s pop prowess, “Blick Blick,” an electric new track with Nicki Minaj, serves as a timely reminder ahead of debut album Trendsetter that she can rap alongside the best in the industry. “Blick Blick” contains moments of virtuosic onomatopoeia — the almighty “Uhh!” in the chorus, the double-time back half of Leray’s verse — before Minaj slides in, name-checks DMX and Jeff Bezos, and offers her rising collaborator a hard-earned co-sign.