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, Lil Nas X drops his long-awaited first opus, Kehlani returns with a moving new single, and Jonas Brothers (and some hall of fame songwriters) get us moving ahead of the weekend. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Lil Nas X, Montero
This year has been all about Lil Nas X, the artist born Montero Hill who became a superstar nearly overnight thanks to “Old Town Road” in 2019, showing us who he really is, from the heroic rapper of “Industry Baby” to the spectacle-embracing dancer of his awards show performances to the unflappable prankster on social media to the vulnerable singer on “Sun Goes Down.” His debut album is titled Montero, and triumphantly tells his full story: a gay mainstream rapper who understands his groundbreaking presence but also feels love, loss and desire, Nas wraps personal details around an unassailable pop craft, with songwriting feats like “That’s What I Want” and “Void” stacked against A-list collaborations with Miley Cyrus, Doja Cat and Elton John, among others. Lil Nas X’s career has been brimming with promise, and fortunately for us, Montero makes good on it.
“Don’t know why I ever thought you were far away,” Kehlani sings on her stunning new single “Altar,” “I should’ve known better.” “Altar” is a song about spirituality — believing the people we’ve lost are close to us, even when we cannot see them — and in that faith Kehlani sounds renewed, letting her voice sparkle over an inviting bed of synths and previewing her forthcoming album Blue Water Road with a confident synthesis of a universal theme.
Jonas Brothers, “Who’s In Your Head”
Fun fact about Jonas Brothers’ kicky new pop single “Who’s In Your Head”: produced by Ilya and Max Martin, the song also features Martin and Rami Yacoub as co-writers, a 15-year reunion of pop powerhouses responsible for penning songs like Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did It Again” and *NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me.” Even those unaware of the behind-the-scenes players, however, will lap up the latest JoBros offering, an ode to envy straight out of the Nick Jonas “Jealous” playbook with a delectable guitar riff that would have fit in on their Happiness Begins album.
Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett, “Love For Sale”
The latest preview of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s second collaborative album represents a reminder of Bennett’s all-world skills as a singer, so easy to take for granted after decades of success. The 95-year-old sounds remarkably spry opening “Love For Sale,” radiating finger-snapping cool before Gaga joins in by his side; Love For Sale will be the final studio album of Bennett’s career, and based on its title track, he’ll be going out on top.
Enrique Iglesias, Final (Vol. 1)
The second two-thirds of Enrique Iglesias’ new album Final (Vol. 1) is filled with songs that fans, and radio stations, have already loved for a while, from the smash Farruko team-up “Me Pasé” to the Nicky Jam collaboration “El Perdón,” which dates all the way back to 2015. No matter: Iglesias has always been generous with his hits, and on his first proper full-length in a whopping seven years, the Latin pop legend dutifully gathers the ones that have been recently released while offering a few new surefire fan favorites, like the simmering “Te Fuiste” with Myke Towers and the racing, whimsical “Pendejo.”
Tems, If Orange Was a Place
Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems is currently beguiling listeners around the globe thanks to “Essence,” her irresistible hit alongside WizKid that has reached the top of the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart; If Orange Was a Place, her five-song follow-up to last year’s For Broken Ears EP, serves as both a continuation of the charms of her new smash and a primer on Tems’ strengths outside of it. “Found,” a lilting team-up with Brent Faiyaz, re-creates the interplay of “Essence” over subtler production, but the real highlight is “Vibe Out,” an extended solo jam that lets the listener embrace the title for five minutes.
soul, classic soul, motown,