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 keeps partying into 2022, Gunna lets us know that Drip Season has resumed, and Maren Morris nods to her fruitful past. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Weeknd, Dawn FM
Much of The Weeknd’s output over the past year — collaborations with artists ranging from Post Malone to Rosalía to Swedish House Mafia, as well as the solo single “Take My Breath” — has functioned as a well-earned victory lap following the enormous success of 2020’s After Hours. And while follow-up album Dawn FM continues the positive vibes, it does so in a way that smartly advances Abel Tesfaye’s aesthetic: instead of searching for new highs in his lyrics, The Weeknd gives us those shots of adrenaline throughout the candy-colored full-length, as if the synth-pop Lil Wayne jam “I Heard You’re Married,” the dance-funk fantasia “Sacrifice” or the unexpected spoken-word contributions from Jim Carrey and Quincy Jones present more of a jolt than any turn of phrase ever could.
Gunna’s 2020 album WUNNA was a triumph, a hazy hip-hop balm during the early months of the pandemic; nearly two years later, the Atlanta MC has returned to his Drip Season mixtape series to title his new project, but DS4ever operates as a continuation of the star-studded, mainstream-ready formula from his last solo project. “Pushin P” with Future and Young Thug arrives early in the track list as a de facto breakout single from the project, although “25K Jacket,” featuring Gunna’s Drip Harder co-star Lil Baby, is the real head-knocker upon first listen.
Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town”
Before smashes like “The Middle” and “The Bones” delivered Maren Morris to top 40 radio, the singer-songwriter had accrued a devoted country following thanks to her top-notch 2017 debut, Hero. New single “Circles Around This Town” recalls early career highlights like “My Church” and “80s Mercedes,” with a shiny country-pop exterior and a vocal take by Morris full of wit, personality and savory hooks.
Sebastián Yatra, “Amor Pasajero”
Sebastián Yatra was already enjoying a successful start to 2022 prior to his new single being released — after all, the Colombian singer-songwriter contributed a pair of songs to the hit soundtrack of the Disney animated film Encanto. “Amor Pasajero,” from his upcoming album Dharma, demonstrates his range, with Yatra sinking into a cumbia beat and matching the intensity of a string section by the end of the track.
Father John Misty, “Funny Girl”
No, Father John Misty’s new single isn’t about the classic Barbra Streisand dramedy… but its production suggests that it could have existed in its mid-60s universe without sounding too out of place. To precede his first proper album since 2018, Joshua Tillman recruits an orchestra to help sort out his complicated romantic feelings, which fall between moony-eyed swooning and irritated snark, all while the stately brass keeps playing on.
Lauren Spencer-Smith, “Fingers Crossed”
Lauren Spencer-Smith, a former contestant on American Idol, is currently reaping the rewards of TikTok vitality, as her song “Fingers Crossed” has exploded across digital platforms to position itself as one of the first breakout hits of 2022. After one listen to “Fingers Crossed,” it’s easy to understand why: the song recalls the emotional clarity and attention to detail that worked so well for artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo last year, and Spencer-Smith sings the hell out of it, showcasing both her vocal power and restraint across the breakup song.