Feeling overwhelmed by the new songs, albums and videos being unveiled today? You’re not alone. 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, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus both make their grand re-entrances to the pop game, Cardi B takes no prisoners on her first solo single of the year, Camila Cabello shows a new look via a guest appearance, and Thomas Rhett brings it all back home. Check out all this week’s First Stream picks below.
The Song to Make You Rekindle an Old Flame:
Katy Perry, “Never Really Over”
For her first solo single since her 2017 Witness era, longtime pop star Katy Perry pulls off a veteran move: a comeback single about falling back in with a lost love, which could also be read as being about her reconnecting with her old sound. “Never Really Over” is a sparkling, breathless banger that harkens back to the ecstatic turbo-pop of her Teenage Dream and PRISM days, thanks in large part to a borrowed melody (and frenetic hook) from Norwegian singer-songwriter Dagny’s blissful “Love You LIike That,” and some typically shimmering synths (and now-trademark clock ticks) from co-producer Zedd. If you’re feeling nostalgic about either old relationships or old top 40 playlists this summer, this is the jam for you.
The Song to Make You Start Reflexively Lip Syncing:
Herve Pagez w/ Diplo and Charli XCX, “Spicy”
It shouldn’t take more than ten seconds and five words for you to spot the inspiration here: Once you hear future-pop favorite Charli XCX singing “If you want my future…” it’s pretty clear that the “Spicy” in the title refers to Posh, Sporty, Ginger, Scary and Baby. But this Mad Decent redo of the Spice Girls’ ’90s classic “Wannabe” doesn’t go quite as you might expect: Rather than try to recreate the frenzied pop energy of the original, producers Herve Pagez and Diplo layer acoustic guitar picking over a trappy, reggaeton-inspired beat, bringing out the urgency and melancholy in Charli’s “Are you for real?” please. Word of caution: Charli’s “YOOOO…” sounds like it’s kicking off a rendition of the song’s famous “I’ll tell you what I want…” chorus, but it gets quickly interrupted by wordless drop, so don’t get too excited to sing along.
The EP That Reintroduces a Star in Full Effect:
Miley Cyrus, She Is Coming EP
The title is fair warning: Miley Cyrus is back, and she’s never been Miley-er. Her new drop She Is Coming might be a six-song EP, but it hits with you such full force that it may as well be Bangerz II, complete with a RuPaul turn on the Drag Race-worthy runway stomper “Cattitude” and even a quick cameo from Ghostface Killah to properly sell the Wu-Tang-quoting drug ballad “D.R.E.A.M.” But best of all is “Party Up the Street,” co-starring Swae Lee and co-produced by old Bangerz bud Mike Will Made-It, which sees Miley pulling back from being in your face so she can whisper in your ear about the soirée going down just a heartbeat away: “You know what happens after dark.”
The Song to Make You Scowl (In a Good Way):
Cardi B, “Press”
Just in case you thought her time doing slow jams with Bruno Mars would’ve chilled Cardi B out, here she comes roaring back with “Press,” her first solo single since last year’s hip-hop radio smash “Money.” Like that single, “Press” finds the rapper born Belcalis Almánzar coming out firing, so aggressive and consistent with her shots that the hook is barely distinguishable from the verses. Nearly all 2:24 of it is some degree of quotable, but the highlight probably comes with Cardi singing along to her doorbell ringing: “DING DONG/ Must be that whip that I ordered/ And a new crib for my daughter.”
The Album to Make You Curious About Rap Across the Pond:
Skepta, Ignorance Is Bliss
A star in his native U.K. for the whole 2010s, grime MC Skepta has long seemed one well-placed cosign away from achieving similar status stateside. You won’t find that via a guest appearance on fifth studio album Ignorance Is Bliss, out this week — though Nafe Smallz does do a pretty convincing Travis Scott impression on stellar advance single “Greaze Mode.” But you will find enough bangers from Skepta and his countrymen (Smallz, J Hus, WizKid) that it might just break him in America anyway, with the cleverness of the rapper-producer’s rhymes matched by the inventiveness of his beats, including a faux-alarm clock buzz providing the backbone for “No Sleep,” and a chopped-up Sophie Ellis-Bextor sample providing “Love Me Not” extra urgency. “Might tour the U.S. just for fun,” he teaes on “You Wish.” Better start looking for tickets now.
The Album That’ll Have You Driving Past the Old Neighborhood:
Thomas Rhett, Center Point Road
Though country singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett has become a national superstar off the back of his first three albums, he can’t escape memories of his hometown on fourth LP Center Point Road, which he’s called “super nostalgic.” Indeed, between its high school yearbook-like title cut and tracks like “That Old Truck” and “Remember You Young,” the album is unapologetically wistful. As Rhett explained to Billboard, “It’s really cool to dive back into your 13- or 15-year-old self and try to derive song ideas from that.” But the album isn’t all sepia-toned FM country: “VHS” is a summer jam that feels like a Carly Rae Jepsen outtake, while “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” takes a much different path to revelry than the Panic! At the Disco song of the same name, but arrives in a very similar place.
The Song That’s More Effective Than the Good Humor Truck Jingle:
Mika, “Ice Cream”
Is it summer without at least one dancefloor filler named after the season’s trademark confection? English alt-pop paragon Mika is back this week to fill the quota with “Ice Cream,” lead single to the upcoming My Name Is Michael Holbrook album, his first in four years. The song is a scorcher from its opening bars — “The grass is turning yellow/ The streets are slow and mellow/ The faucet keeps on dripping/ And the clock it keeps on ticking” — until the chorus arrives to mercifully cool things down. This isn’t your little brother’s Haagen-Dazs, though: “I want your ice cream/ I want it lying in the sun/ I want it melting on my tongue.”
The Song That Proves That Fame Is One Long Anxiety Attack:
NF, “The Search”
If you thought that NF would return after his breakout 2018 now armed with D.A. Doman beats, 2 Chainz guest verses and massive radio hooks, “The Search” should dissuade you of any such notion by the end of its groaning half-minute fade-in. “I really didn’t sleep much last night,” he raps on the intro, and that’s quickly revealed to probably be a gigantic understatement, as prickly strings, choral backing chants and an unforgiving beat drop give the meltdown overtaking his mind operatic grandeur. Maybe best that this won’t play particularly well on Hot 97, though, since by the MC’s own admission, “The sales can rise/ Doesn’t mean much though when your health declines.”
The Song Whose Guest Vocal Credit Will Make You Do a Double Take:
Mark Ronson feat. Camila Cabello, “Find U Again”
Yes, both Charli XCX and Kim Petras have songs on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist this week, and no, neither of them are this one. Though the twinkling synths and pinched, Auto-Tune-harmonized vocals of this winning heartache-pop gem would suggest at least one of those artists, it’s actually Fifth Harmony-alum-turned-solo star Camila Cabello displaing her vocal versatility, with British hitmaker Mark Ronson making the magic happen behind the decks. Given the similar gold he’d previously spun via out-of-character turns from Miley Cyrus and Lykke Li, Ronson’s upcoming Late Night Feelings looks well on its way to ending up one of the most delightful pop collections of the year.