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, Swedish House Mafia calls a big name in their rolodex, Lana Del Rey’s songwriting remains sharp as ever, and Elton John throws a star-studded party. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Swedish House Mafia & The Weeknd, “Moth to a Flame”
Want to kick your long-awaited group reunion into high gear? If you’re Swedish House Mafia, back together after years apart and staring down a massive upcoming tour that includes a Coachella gig, you simply call one of the biggest superstars on the planet for your new single. “Moth to a Flame” brings The Weeknd into their dance revival, and finds the right balance between the trio’s electro impulses and Abel Tesfaye’s pop sheen; if Swedish House Mafia’s two previously released singles since reuniting set the table for their comeback, this pulsating ode to craving someone you miss serves as a top-notch centerpiece.
Lana Del Rey, Blue Banisters
Lana Del Rey’s artistry will never be easily contained, which is what makes her such a captivating pop singer-songwriter: her output waxes and wanes, her song lengths balloon and shrink, but when she fully harnesses her emotional power on a song or album, there simply are not many musicians who can match her. Blue Banisters continues a prolific moment for Del Rey — the project arrives less than six months after Chemtrails Over The Country Club — and while her latest roams around the darkness of her past and her complicated feelings on modern Americana, the brightest songwriting gems here, like the woozy “If You Lie Down With Me” and the incisive “Wildflower Wildfire,” sparkle brilliantly.
Elton John, The Lockdown Sessions
Don’t look now, but Sir Elton John has a real top 40 hit on the current Hot 100: “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)” with Dua Lipa has leapt to No. 25 on the tally by refashioning some of the legendary singer-songwriter’s most beloved hits into a new package — alongside a modern star for good measure. John’s quarantine-created new album The Lockdown Sessions operates in a similar manner, reminding the world of his genius while bringing new stars like Young Thug, Nicki Minaj, Lil Nas X and Charlie Puts into his orbit. Stick around for the end of the album, though, and you’ll find tender collaborations with John’s fellow all-timers, including Stevie Nicks on the epic duet “Stolen Car.”
Christina Aguilera feat. Becky G, Nicki Nicole & Nathy Peluso, “Pa Mis Muchachas”
In between the 1999 self-titled debut that made her a star and the 2002 album Stripped that made her a cultural lightning rod, Christina Aguilera released an impressive Spanish-language album, Mi Reflejo, and diehard fans have been hoping for a return ever since. The wait is over, as “Pa Mis Muchachas” previews Aguilera’s first Spanish-language project in 20 years with an all-star lineup of co-stars — Becky G, Nicki Nicole and Nathy Peluso, all at the top of their games — and a version of Aguilera that couldn’t sound more confident.
Before the end of the year, Khalid will return with a new project, Scenic Drive, that he likens to his stopgap Sun City EP from 2018. If “Present” is any indication, the pop star will use the tape to interrogate the more rhythmic side of his sound: the new song both embraces the tenets of old-school R&B while relying on Khalid’s warble to convey a sense of urgency, making for a nice reminder of the singer-songwriter’s talent and range.
Lady A, What A Song Can Do
Four months ago, country trio Lady A released the first half of their album What A Song Can Do as a seven-song EP dubbed Chapter One of the new full-length. Now that the entire 14-track project has arrived, their intent is a bit more clear: What A Song Can Do aims to refocus the long-running project (which changed its name from Lady Antebellum last year) by honoring their fans and doubling down on immaculately produced country-pop, which shines on the heartfelt new track “In Waves.”
Majid Jordan, Wildest Dreams
Eight years after helping Drake earn a multi-format smash with “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” Majid Jordan continues to release forward-looking R&B with pop flirtations as part of the OVO roster. New album Wildest Dreams includes a sleek, satisfying new Drake team-up, “Stars Align,” but the duo now sound more at home exploring new territory on their own, such as on the thrilling new wave riff “Summer Rain.”