Billboard’s Friday Music Guide 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, Jonas Brothers are back for more summer fun, Lil Durk and J. Cole turn contemplative, and Shakira tries to continue her hot streak. Check out all of this week’s picks below:
Jonas Brothers, The Album
Happiness Begins was, for all intents and purposes, Jonas Brothers’ comeback album, a wildly successful return in 2019 after a 10-year gap between full-lengths that brought the trio to the top of the Hot 100 for the first time and launched a long-running, mega-selling arena tour. Four years later, The Album smartly does not try to recapture lightning in a bottle: instead of trying to manufacture another “Sucker,” the project moves briskly across shared ideas and throwback musical interests, as songs like “Waffle House,” “Summer Baby” and “Montana Sky” function like retro FM radio offerings stuffed with warm harmonies. The JoBros have little to prove at this point in their careers, and the looseness of The Album seems to telegraph: this is where the real fun begins.
Lil Durk feat. J. Cole, “All My Life”
“All my life, they been trying to keep me down,” a choir of children sings on the new Lil Durk/J. Cole team-up “All My Life,” a nod to the doubt that both rappers faced from hip-hop gatekeepers as they evolved their careers over the past decade-plus. Instead of a straightforward proved-the-haters-wrong anthem, Durk and Cole wisely expand their shared focus on the track, with Durk lamenting the systemic issues that forced him to turn to rap as a form of survival, and Cole sounding haunted by the violence that too often pervades his world.
Casual fans might regard “Acróstico,” the tender new single from Shakira, as a heat check from the Colombian superstar, considering the monumental success she’s already achieved this year with her Bizarrap collaboration “BZRP Music Sessions, Vol. 53” and Karol G duet “TQG” both hitting the top 10 of the Hot 100. Yet Shakira has spent her entire mastering this sort of piano ballad as powerhouse vocal display: “Acróstico” shimmers with restrained production and technically dazzling emotion, as Shakira follows a pair of ostentatious team-ups with a gorgeously stripped-down solo showcase.
Bailey Zimmerman, Religiously. The Album
Bailey Zimmerman’s Leave the Light On EP, featuring his smash hit “Rock and a Hard Place,” is barely six months old at this point, but considering the commercial breakthrough that the country singer-songwriter has experienced since its release, it’s little surprise that his debut album has promptly arrived in time for summer streaming. Fortunately, Religiously. The Album finds cohesion in Zimmerman’s songwriting: the Illinois native supplements his husky drawl with phrases that cut right to the listener’s core, whether he’s asking rhetorical questions (“Fix’n To Break”), setting a dimly lit scene (“You Don’t Want That Smoke”), or asserting the “broken roads that I’m tryin’ to mend” (“Where It Ends”).
BTS, “The Planet”
A soundtrack single from the action-adventure animated film Bastions, “The Planet” marks a welcome check-in from BTS as the world-conquering K-pop group continues its break from group activities. And while it remains to be seen how much the BTS members can actively promote the new track, “The Planet” sounds like a hit regardless of the marketing plan: a snappy electro-pop track with a pogoing beat and playful vocal performances from all of the members, the song contains the hooks and tempo to highlight several summer playlists.
Lauren Daigle, Lauren Daigle
Nearly five years have elapsed between Lauren Daigle’s 2018 album Look Up Child, which turned the singer-songwriter into one of the most successful artists in contemporary Christian music in recent memory, and this year’s self-titled follow-up, during which Daigle signed a new label deal with Atlantic Records, teamed up with veteran producer Mike Elizondo and generally pushed her artistry into several exciting new directions. Instead of doubling down on the stately balladry of her breakthrough hits, Daigle explores ‘60s pop, folk, jazz and R&B on the project, creating a fantasia of inspiration powered by her mammoth vocal takes.