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, Kid Cudi is back with a multimedia opus, Paramore keeps gloriously evolving, and Ed Sheeran has gotta catch ‘em all. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Kid Cudi, Entergalactic
Thirteen years ago, Kid Cudi was a rising artist fresh off a breakthrough hit in “Day ’N’ Nite,” and his excellent debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, included the track “Enter Galactic” as a sweaty electro-dance experiment. Today, Cudi is correctly revered as one of the more influential figures in modern hip-hop thanks in large part to his sonic eccentricities, and Entergalactic, a new album coinciding with his new animated Netflix series of the same name, captures the artistic ambition that has defined his career. Entergalactic is moody in parts, soaring in others; Don Toliver, Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz all swing by, but the album is very clearly the work of one boundary-pusher still telling his stories on a wide screen.
Paramore, “This Is Why”
Aging gracefully while sensibly reshaping your sound is a difficult trick to pull off in modern rock music, but Paramore have spent years refining their identity, and striking a balance between understanding their hardcore fans and not trying to recapture their early career magic. “This Is Why,” the title track for their first new album since 2017, represents another bold yet sonically grounded triumph: while the production recalls the art-rock idiosyncrasies of After Laughter, Hayley Williams sneers, spins and strikes with the tenacity of her Riot! work.
Ed Sheeran, “Celestial”
“I’ve played Pokémon since I was in primary school,” Ed Sheeran says in a press release for his new single, “Celestial.” A lot of us have, too — but Sheeran is a stadium-playing superstar, and one of the perks of that status is being able to partner with the franchise for a video game tie-in track and have Pikachu and Squirrel appear in its video. “Celestial” continues the pop-rock shimmer of Sheeran’s = album from last year, with its far-reaching chorus standing in admiration of a particularly inspiring partner, or pocket monster.
YG, I Got Issues
While YG typifies the West Coast veteran that could stay in his trunk-rattling lane for decades and still please plenty of listeners, I Got Issues is more than a smattering of G-funk and A-list guests (although it does have both, with J. Cole, Nas, Post Malone and Moneybagg Yo all pulling up). In between the tough talk and big hooks are moments of reflection, as YG grapples with being stuck between his pre-fame upbringing and his extended time in the spotlight, with the paranoia the latter brings: “Livin’ life, lookin’ over my shoulder, gotta hide my face,” he spits on “Alone.”
Ciara feat. Summer Walker, “Better Thangs”
As R&B experiences a boom of cross-generation collaboration, with veteran artists hopping on new-school projects and vice verse, the meeting of Ciara and Summer Walker on the new single “Better Thangs” marks an especially delightful summit of two gifted vocalists with similar mainstream instincts. As the two stars bond over moving on from drama, the drums keep pumping and the harmonies flutter in and out, resulting in a rhythmic and irresistible showcase.
Björk’s music endures for many reasons, but her ability to seamlessly blend personal experience and universal ideas — to share her life, and also stretch it into the cosmos — must be considered primary to her brilliance. The Icelandic legend’s 10th studio album, Fossora, meditates on nature, love and womanhood as orchestral lushness envelops Björk’s unmistakable tone, but also offers an intimate glimpse of her relationship with her mother, who passed away in 2018, on the towering one-two punch “Sorrowful Soil” and “Ancestress.”