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, Taylor Swift turns the clock to Midnights, Arctic Monkeys continue to challenge themselves, and Shakira links up with Ozuna. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Taylor Swift, Midnights
Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, Midnights, was introduced to us as an exercise in restlessness. “This is a collection of music written in the middle of the night,” Swift wrote in August while announcing the project, “a journey through terrors and sweet dreams. The floors we pace and the demons we face.”
This explanation for Midnights makes sense in the context of its arrival. Less than two years after the unexpected, two-pronged opus of Folklore and Evermore, and smack in the middle of her extended process of re-recording (and expanding) her first six studio albums, Swift certainly did not need to release an album of original material this year. Yet like any middle-of-the-night rumination, these songs gnawed at her, begging to be expanded upon instead of stored away for another day. Midnights brims with the bleary-eyed doubts, private triumphs, left-field questions and long-term musings that haunt us in the darkness; Swift felt compelled to hoist hers into the light.
Arctic Monkeys, The Car
Casual Arctic Monkeys fans might turn their nose up at The Car, the band’s seventh studio album; why, they might wonder, has the wildly successful UK rock band behind hits like “Do I Wanna Know?” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” pivoted to highly orchestrated lounge music? But Alex Turner and co. haven’t designed The Car for casuals — these are gorgeous, complicated songs, performed with the intimacy and confidence of a band willing to open themselves up to new ideas and having the panache to pull them off.
Shakira & Ozuna, “Monotonía”
After linking up with Raw Alejandro for “Te Felicito,” Shakira has previewed her forthcoming album with another high-wattage Latin music collaboration, this time with Ozuna joining on the spacious bachata tracks “Monotonía.” With vocalists as skilled as Shakira and Ozuna, the production wisely clears out as the two superstars operate with nuance and passion, finding a charming balance between their two tones.
Roddy Ricch, “Aston Martin Truck”
“I’m trying to make another hundred million / Figure out how I’m gone bring my brothers in,” Roddy Ricch raps on new single “Aston Martin Truck,” which possesses a level of urgency that the hip-hop star injects into all of his most accomplished work. A few years after exploding with “The Box,” Ricch is looking for another single to scale the charts, and “Aston Martin Truck” grabs the listener for the entirety of its running time, in a way that suggests this might be the one to make the leap.
Carly Rae Jepsen, The Loneliest Time
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the “Call Me Maybe” phenomenon — the summer-dominating No. 1 smash that made Carly Rae Jepsen an unlikely pop star following years spent as a successful singer-songwriter in Canada — and while Jepsen is now removed from the hits-chasing discourse, she’s still releasing arresting pop gems that deserve to get stuck in your head as well. The Loneliest Time considers new directions for Jepsen after years of perfecting a shimmering retro-pop aesthetic, with slower tempos and more contemplation mixed in to winning sing-alongs like “Surrender My Heart” and the title track (featuring Rufus Wainwright).