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, Taylor Swift reimagines her past (literally), Nipsey Hussle and Jay-Z are paired together as hip-hop heroes, and Dua Lipa serves up a deluxe-edition hit. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Taylor Swift, “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)”
While Taylor Swift’s decision to re-record her first six albums marks a fascinating business move and creative choice, for her many fans, the project also provides an excuse to dive back into one of the most captivating discographies in modern pop. “Love Story (Taylor’s Version),” from the upcoming re-recorded version of 2008’s Fearless, represents a faithful re-creation with Swift’s current voice — and for a breakthrough top 10 hit as undeniable as this one, the lack of gimmickry makes for a loving revisit.
Nipsey Hussle & Jay-Z, “What It Feels Like”
A dream team-up has materialized for the soundtrack to Judas and the Black Messiah, as Jay-Z and Nipsey Hussle — who had a close personal relationship but never appeared on a song together prior to the latter’s 2019 death — have their powers combined on the bold, chest-pounding “What It Feels Like.” While Jay sounds fresh during a rare mic appearance, referencing everything from last month’s Capitol insurrection to Drake’s Scorpion album, Nipsey’s got the most memorable lyric here: “The only reason I survive? ‘Cause a n—a is special.”
Dua Lipa, “We’re Good”
For the deluxe ‘Moonlight Edition’ of her Future Nostalgia album, Dua Lipa has dropped a new single that takes a breather from the uptempo ride of hits like “Don’t Start Now” and “Levitating,” as the pop star sings about amicably splitting from a former flame. “We’re Good” takes a few listens to fully detonate, but Lipa’s performance on the track immediately resonate — listen to how she tackles every lyric with such passion and precision.
Ariana Grande, Doja Cat & Megan Thee Stallion, “34+35 (Remix)” video
Ariana Grande’s “34+35” remix screams luxury: joined by Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion on the hit rework of the Positions single, Grande’s sensual vocal take, plus the multifaceted skills of her guests, makes for a four-minute embarrassment of riches. As such, the new music video for the remix finds the trio sipping champagne and ordering room service from the most decadent hotel in existence — which begs the question, why don’t more hotels have swans in their swimming pools?
Florida Georgia Line, Life Rolls On
Since breaking through in 2012 with their smash hit “Cruise,” Florida Georgia Line have been a model of consistency in country music, never going more than two-and-a-half years without releasing a new album. Fifth full-length Life Rolls On is the duo’s first that cannot be actively enjoyed by packed arenas and festival crowds upon release, but until the touring industry can overcome the pandemic, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have offered a balm for tough times, as they toast the simple pleasures on “Life Looks Good” and salute America on “U.S. Stronger.”
Karol G, Anuel AA & J Balvin, “Location”
Karol G has quickly been ramping up to her next full-length with both solo cuts like “Bichota” and collaborations like “Tusa” with Nicki Minaj and the “Caramelo” remix with Ozuna and Myke Towers. While “Location” falls into the latter category, with Anuel AA and J Balvin crooning and chanting over a finger-picked melody, Karol asserts herself as the song’s star — delivering the hook first, then a third verse that packs a wallop.
Erica Banks feat. Travis Scott, “Buss It (Remix)”
After Erica Banks’ “Buss It” became a TikTok sensation and leapt onto the Hot 100 chart, Travis Scott has joined in on the fun by hopping on a new version of the “Hot In Herre”-sampling hit. Most A-list rappers would relish a beat as irresistible as this one, but Scott puts in extra work, sounding exuberant in the remix’s first half before ceding the floor to a swaggering Banks.
Pink Sweat$, Pink Planet
The R&B-pop stylings of Pink Sweat$ have progressed for years, with long-simmering industry hype and multiple EP releases forming a wind-up to Pink Planet, his debut album. Fortunately, that build-up has produced his most confident, well-constructed project to date: the serene vocal approach of Pink Sweat$ has never been in question, but songs like the lilting “Heaven” and the gospel-funk highlight “So Sweet” make good on his longstanding potential.