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, Halsey drops their magnum opus, BTS receives a late-summer assist from Megan Thee Stallion, and Selena Gomez continues to flex her Spanish-language might. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Halsey, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
All 13 songs on Halsey’s new album were produced and co-written by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — the central figures of Nine Inch Nails, who have recently been collecting Oscars for their composing work. Their involvement with If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power underlines its intentions as a Serious Project, but the pair ultimately complements Halsey’s growth as a songwriter, vocalist and all-around star that commands the moment. Within the context of Reznor and Ross’ twitching, intoxicating soundscapes, Halsey documents their experiences with pregnancy, childbirth and new motherhood — but also their reflections on love, lust, solitude and happiness, capturing both the main ideas and subtle details of who they are. The result is a significant personal and professional achievement, and one of the best albums of the year.
BTS feat. Megan Thee Stallion, “Butter (Remix)”
Megan Thee Stallion has become one of the most reliable featured artists in mainstream hip-hop, injecting wit and personality into every guest appearance — and on this remix to the BTS summer smash, she once again carves out a lane alongside the globe-conquering pop group. “Butter” has been a defining song of this summer, and the remix breathes new life into its shimmer a few weeks ahead of fall time.
Selena Gomez & Camilo, “999”
Months after delving into Spanish-language pop with the Relevación EP, Selena Gomez has linked up with Camilo for a charming mid-tempo single that would have been right at home on its track list. On “999,” the duo’s warm vocal tones match up pristinely, with Gomez taking the lead but making room for the harmonies to shine in the middle of the track.
Baby Keem feat. Kendrick Lamar, “Family Ties”
“Don’t you address me unless it’s with four letters,” Kendrick Lamar quips on “Family Ties,” his first featured verse in three years — an astonishingly long time in modern hip-hop — which comes in support of his cousin, rising MC Baby Keem. Although any artist rapping alongside the self-anointed GOAT would have cause for nerves, Keem sounds comfortable tearing into the track before ceding the floor to the superstar.
Kacey Musgraves, “Justified”
Leading up to her fourth album, Star-Crossed, Kacey Musgraves has not been shy about the fact that the album would focus on her divorce from Ruston Kelly, in the same way that its predecessor, 2018’s Golden Hour, chronicled their romance. Lead single “Justified” begins to unpack the experience of a serious uncoupling, with Musgraves sorting her feelings of hurt, betrayal and confusion while being a sharp-enough songwriter to tie a bow on the song with the line, “Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line.”
Meek Mill feat. Lil Durk & Lil Baby, “Sharing Locations”
In the time since Meek Mill was last active on the hip-hop scene, Lil Baby has become an arena-level superstar, and Lil Durk has reinvented himself as a mainstream mainstay. Coming off of their collaborative LP The Voice of the Heroes, Baby and Durk assist Meek to return the favor from that album’s “Still Runnin’”; “Sharing Locations” more adeptly balances each of their flows, with all three sharing verses but never outshining the others.
soul, classic soul, motown,