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, The Weeknd takes our breath away on his new single, Aventura and Bad Bunny turn into a dream team, and Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are once again cheek to cheek. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Weeknd, “Take My Breath”
The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” changed the course of pop: as one of the biggest hits of the past few years, its vision of retro, post-disco synth-pop reclaiming top 40 radio has influenced a countless number of songs in its wake, and helped Abel Tesfaye achieve the most fruitful period of his career. The After Hours era is barely even over — “Save Your Tears” is still in heavy rotation across the country! — but The Weeknd is moving on; while “Take My Breath” opens with more slithery synth lines, the new single sounds like the spiritual sequel to 2015’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” as a euphoric chorus underlines the dark temptation at the song’s root. “Take My Breath” sounds like a surefire smash, and right now, The Weeknd may very well be the most reliable person on the planet at creating those.
Aventura & Bad Bunny, “Volví”
For fans of modern Latin pop music, the idea of combining Aventura’s swoon-worthy bachata with Bad Bunny’s trap-influenced reggaeton sounds like a fever dream, if executed under the right circumstances. Fortunately, the new collaboration “Volví” plays out like a best-case scenario, with neither the reunited Dominican pop quartet nor the Puerto Rican new-school superstar overreaching in their respective roles — and when the beat drops out and allows Romeo Santos to pass the mic over to Bad Bunny, the stylistic team-up becomes chill-inducing.
Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett, “I Get a Kick Out Of You”
Within the narrative of her music career, Cheek To Cheek, Lady Gaga’s 2014 collaborative album with Tony Bennett, marked a subtle course correction, the duets LP a means of demonstrating her vocal power alongside a legend following the commercial missteps of 2013’s Artpop. Seven years later, Gaga’s career is in no need of an adrenaline shot, but another Gaga-Bennett album, Love For Sale, will reunite the longtime friends across a new set of standards; this week, we’ve got a dependably jazzy version of Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out Of You,” with Bennett sounding spry as ever and Gaga hinting at the vocal fireworks that will inevitably come on the upcoming album.
Jack Harlow & Pooh Shiesty, “SUVs (Black on Black)”
Still riding high on the top 10 success of Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby,” Jack Harlow quickly returns with another collaboration — this time a grimier, more unforgiving affair with fellow hip-hop breakout Pooh Shiesty. An effective contrast of mic approaches, “SUVs (Black on Black)” connects Louisville and Memphis over a rattling beat, with Shiesty tossing out threats and Harlow still sneaking sports similes where he can (“Now I call the shots like I’m John Wooden,” he boasts).
Soulful and wildly talented, Tinashe is type of R&B-pop artist that inspires deep adoration, with fans supporting the singer-songwriter through her label entanglements and recent indie moves. New project 333 continues to reward those who have invested in Tinashe, with a top-notch single, the effervescent “Bouncin,’” and a kinetic collaboration with Jeremih, “X,” highlighting a project consistent enough to pull in new listeners as well as casual fans that still head-nod to “2 On” and “All Hands on Deck.”
Chris Young, Famous Friends
Chris Young’s eighth studio album, Famous Friends, includes some of the country star’s own, with Kane Brown assisting on the hit title track and Mitchell Tenpenny and Lauren Alaina appearing elsewhere. Yet Young also makes ample room on the album to shine on his own, his deep, rumbling croon guiding tracks like the country doo-wop “Love Looks Good On You” and the pretty, heartbroken “Drowning.”
Nas, King’s Disease II
“Talk about back in the days — this isn’t back in the days,” Nas declares on “Rare,” a highlight from new album King’s Disease II. Although the rap titan does reflect on his beginnings and some of the more memorable moments from his time in the spotlight (“Death Row East” tells the story of Nas’ attempt to squash his beef with Tupac amidst rising tensions between coastal factions in hip-hop), he sounds vital on the microphone here, waxing poetic on his relationship with his roots and current measures of success alongside guests like Eminem, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Ms. Lauryn Hill and YG.
Guns N’ Roses, “Absurd”
Although Guns N’ Roses have been active in recent years as a touring act — they’re playing U.S. stadiums this week, in fact — the legendary band’s studio output has been practically nonexistent since Axl Rose finally released Chinese Democracy in 2008. Yet “Absurd,” originally written during the Chinese Democracy sessions as “Silkworms,” has arrived in full, and offers a startling vision of what a new GN’R single sounds like in 2021: profane, furious, as hard-charging as the bat-out-of-hell guitar riffs that make up its backbone, and closer to classic metal than any of the band’s timeless hits that have become karaoke staples in the decades since their release. Get ready to raise your devil horns up for this one.