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, Skrillex ends a long album drought, P!nk takes us on a journey, and both Janelle Monáe and Niall Horan return with splashy new singles. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Skrillex, Quest for Fire
Casual Skrillex fans might be shocked to learn that Quest for Fire is only his second album — after all, the 35-year-old was a defining figure of the EDM boom during the 2010s, a prolific producer and collaborator over the past decade, and one of the more exhilarating presences at the many festivals he played across several years. Quest for Fire is his first album in nine years, but perhaps Skrillex was simply winding up for this moment: the long-awaited follow-up to 2014’s Recess sounds just as vital in its dance visions as his best work, and riotously diverse, with a song like “RATATA,” in which Missy Elliott stops by to breathe new life into a “Work It” refrain, leading into “Tears,” a slam-bang showcase for dubstep king Joker.
In a recent chat with Billboard about new album Trustfall, P!nk explained why her ninth studio LP is a “f–king journey” that can’t be contained by one mood. “This album could have easily been, Side A is Roller Skate Time, and Side B is No Sharp Objects in the Kitchen Time!” she said. “But that’s not life. Life is messy and beautiful and messy again.” And Trustfall is true to P!nk’s reality: working with a range of collaborators, from Max Martin to Chris Stapleton to Fred Again.. to First Aid Kit, the pop superstar presents herself as a woman, wife, mother and industry veteran capable of dancing away her troubles and pleading for understanding on the same collection of sometimes uptempo, often emotional songs.
Janelle Monáe feat. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, “Float”
Janelle Monáe lives up to the title of her new single: “Float” is all about hovering over muddled discourse and rising above petty details, being able to leave earthly trappings and find grace in artistry. It’s a skill that the multi-talented Monáe has flaunted over the course of her breathtaking career, and “Float,” created with Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, gives her a chance to bask in her achievements over simmering trap drums and a boisterous mid-tempo piece of production; “Float” may introduce a new body of work, but even if it doesn’t, Monáe has earned the chance to levitate above the naysayers.
Niall Horan, “Heaven”
When boy band members disperse, they often leap into establishing a solo presence to keep the public’s attention, then gradually settle into a sound for themselves. Such has been the case with the members of One Direction since they went on hiatus, and particularly with Niall Horan, who has found a warm pop-rock niche and strengthened his songwriting since debuting with solo hits like “This Town” and “Slow Hands.” “Heaven,” which previews third album The Show, reaches for eternal love with a vocal elasticity and guitar chug that play off each other with ease.
Polo G feat. Future, “No Time Wasted”
“I know you waitin’ / Gettin’ fed up, you runnin’ out of patience,” Polo G declares to open the chorus of “No Time Wasted”; he could be addressing his ravenous fan base, which didn’t get a new album from the Chicago rap star in 2022 after three straight years of doing so, but Polo spends the rest of the new single demonstrating that, when he does return, his storytelling instincts will be sharper than ever. Guest star Future slides onto Polo G’s contemplative level here, simultaneously bragging and commiserating about the trappings of fame, but Polo owns the track by mulling his fears, memories and nightmares in evocative detail.
Omar Apollo, “3 Boys”
Fresh off of a breakthrough year and a best new artist Grammy nod, Omar Apollo has returned with “3 Boys,” a smoky synthesis of doo-wop in which he concludes that a multiplication of romantic partners would be the only way to overcome a bitter heartbreak. The new single smartly showcases the multi-faceted enormity of Apollo’s voice — his ability to deliver ghostly harmonies, ethereal falsetto and desperate, full-throated cries — and becomes another winner for the rising star because of it.