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, Drake sets the table for a full summer, Doja Cat’s new smash gets a guest star, and Queen Bey buckles up alongside Megan Thee Stallion. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Mixtape That Serves As More Than Just An Appetizer:
Drake, Dark Lane Demo Tapes
“How you getting hype off one hit? Do that s–t again,” Drake raps early on in Dark Lane Demo Tapes, a new mixtape that serves as a precursor to a new album coming this summer. If anyone knows the value of multiple hits, it’s Aubrey Graham — the man recently set the all-time record for career Hot 100 hits — and this new project, which collects a few stray tracks from recent months and combines them with a slate of fresh material, has been positioned as the first successful Drake release of 2020 before he does it again with something even bigger. Yet Dark Lane Demo Tapes is more satisfying than a standard odds-and-ends collection: the No. 1 smash “Toosie Slide” resides comfortably near the lonely-hearted “Time Flies” on the track list, and “D4L,” with Future and Young Thug, is one of Drake’s best posse cuts in years. There are anthems, inner thoughts, guest stars and big hooks, coming together for a project more well-rounded than even Drake could have foreseen.
The Song That Now Has Even More A-Plus Bars:
Doja Cat feat. Nicki Minaj, “Say So” (remix)
Doja Cat’s “Say So” has become a breakthrough smash for its combination of a shimmering dance hook, rapid-fire rap breakdown and the persona that keeps those two elements well-balanced. With Nicki Minaj now leaping headfirst into this remix, “Say So” has become a slightly more traditional hip-hop track, but the trade-off — Minaj’s unflappable energy — is worth it. “Ball like the ram, see, now that’s Gordon,” she spits, delivering a tongue-twisting punchline reminiscent of her mentor Lil Wayne, before she’s moved on to declaring that she “put the cookie on quarantine.” Doja Cat’s original track holds up well around its new guest, letting Minaj be her unyielding self while still keeping its cross-genre appeal intact.
The Song That Will Make You Once Again Bow Down To The Queen:
Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyonce, “Savage” (remix)
Move over, Harden and Westbrook: Houston now has an even more exhilarating duo. Beyonce jumping on a remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s rising solo hit “Savage” would be news on its own — it’s not every day that Queen Bey graces us with her presence, after all — but the fact that she wrapped her arms around the entirety of the rap hit makes for an even more exciting listening experience. Instead of phoning in a feature, Beyonce accentuates the best parts of the track and plays the perfect foil to Megan’s raunchy wit, dropping her fair share of quotable moments (“Hips Tik Tok when I dance”!) and reminding us that one of the world’s greatest singers can also rap circles around us when she wants to. A Beyonce remix should never be taken for granted, and fortunately, this version of “Savage” is as essential as the original.
The Song That You’ll Want To Your Pop Playlists ASAP:
Marshmello feat. Halsey, “Be Kind”
As a producer and singer-songwriter, respectively, Marshmello and Halsey are veteran hitmakers who understand the DNA of modern pop music — therefore, it’s no surprise that their new collaboration, “Be Kind,” sounds like it’s going to be an immediate hit, with its electro-pop sheen and giant hook firmly in place. Yet the song offers surprising depth: “Be Kind” is about crumbling intimacy, and finds Halsey how things have soured in a relationship to the point at which you “mess up and lie to the one that you love.” Emotional distance is not uncommon in modern romance, but “Be Kind” ruminates upon the topic in a dynamic fashion, and thus, a surefire hit will have you thinking even after it’s concluded.
The Album That Will Make You Long For a Crowded Stadium Show:
Kenny Chesney, Here and Now
In an alternate universe, Kenny Chesney would release a new album on the first day of May and thousands of the project’s listeners would be memorizing the lyrics in order to croon them back at him on his massive summer tour. Here and Now will have its live presentation pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the small silver lining — now fans have a little extra time with this sunny, secure studio product. Although the single “Tip of My Tongue,” co-written by Ed Sheehan, may have hinted at a detion from Chesney’s well-worn path, the reliable country-pop production and wistful tales of love are still here as a backbone. No Shoes Nation has another 12-song collection to sink into warmly, even if the communal listening will come later.
The Album That We’ve Been Waiting On For Many, Many Years:
JoJo, Good to Know
Good to Know is not JoJo’s comeback album — that would be 2016’s Mad Love., in which the immensely talented pop singer finally escaped label-deal hell and released her first full-length in a decade. Yet while that LP tried to position JoJo’s soulful voice within a few mainstream-baiting arrangements, her latest album is marked by an artistic freedom and verisimilitude that diehard fans recognized from the start of her career. Good to Know is ostensibly an R&B record, with JoJo operating over loud bass and sizzling beats on songs like “Man” and “So Bad,” but it’s also a good hang with a charismatic personality — take one listen to the hangover opus “Pedialyte,” on which Jo sings, “I need a prayer and an Advil,” and you’ll know that she’s finally putting her full self on display.
The Song That Gets a Fresh Shot of Energy:
Camila Cabello feat. DaBaby & Gunna, “My Oh My” (remix)
“My Oh My” has slowly become one of Camila Cabello’s biggest solo hits to date, climbing to No. 12 on the Hot 100 chart following its release on last December’s Romance. And now that the DaBaby collaboration is primed outside of the top 10, why not add a little firepower with a new remix and try to get it over the hump? Gunna joins the party on this new version, and the Atlanta rapper’s low-key flow in the final minute nicely plays off DaBaby’s more manic delivery, while Cabello remains the connective tissue throughout. “My Oh My” marks an important moment for Cabello, and she’s recruited the right MC to give the track a little more muscle.
The Song That Doubles As A Word of Wisdom:
Dixie Chicks, “Julianna Calm Down”
The Dixie Chicks recently postponed the release of their long-awaited new full-length, Gaslighter, and while the wait continues for the trio’s first new album in over a decade, we’ve been given another moving new song to tide us over. Much like “Gaslighter,” the first song released from the project, the production on “Julianna Calm Down” swells upward, starting from a place of relative quiet and sounding like a symphony as its climax; unlike its predecessor, however, the song is not a visceral personal account but a message to every woman trying to gather the courage to turn the page on an empty romance. The result is a dazzling display of songwriting, full of clever wordplay and searing honesty — the Dixies’ plan may have backfired, because now waiting for the full thing feels even harder.
The Song To Blast On Your Next Late-Night Drive:
Khalid feat. Summer Walker, “Eleven” (remix)
Out of the handful of singles that Khalid has released in the year following his sophomore LP Free Spirit, “Eleven” may be the most complete, a blissed-out R&B jam with a hook that takes full advantage of the singer’s impressive range. “Eleven” has yet to become another pop crossover hit for Khalid, but perhaps this new take on the song with rising star Summer Walker will widen its audience. Walker grabs the torch from Khalid following the first chorus and glides through her verse before the pair duets in the back half of the track, their voices reflecting off of one another and strengthening the track’s emotional core. On a day full of must-hear remixes, don’t forget to add this fresh take on “Eleven” to that list.