Hip Hop NEWS

First Stream: New Music From Jonas Brothers, Future, Avicii & More

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, Jonas Brothers finally complete their comeback, Future remains hip-hop’s most prolific superstar and Avicii’s legacy is rightly honored. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

The Album That Will Make You Party Like It’s 2009:
Jonas Brothers, Happiness Begins

Even if the JoBros’ first new album in a decade simply didn’t possess any of their well-worn pop mojo, the trio’s 2019 comeback would have been a resounding success, thanks to a No. 1 smash, “Sucker,” and an impending arena tour. Fortunately, that’s not the case for the album: Happiness Begins really is as rollicking and giddy as its title suggests, and uses the band’s unexpected reformation as an excuse to revisit what made America fall in love with them in the 2000s. Thanks in part to close collaborator Ryan Tedder, the songs here are cleanly arranged and smartly delineate Nick, Joe and Kevin’s respective strengths. One listen to songs like “I Believe” and “Only Human” will prove that the JoBro Renaissance of 2019 was far more than just one good single.

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The Album That Celebrates a Late Star’s Impact:
Avicii, TIM

The dance world is still reeling, over a year later, from the shocking death of Avicii at the age of 28 in April 2018; the artist born Tim Bergling was not only one of the faces of EDM’s ingratiation into the mainstream earlier in the decade, but one of the medium’s most stylistically innovative minds. TIM, a 12-song posthumous album featuring works-in-progress, opts to underline Avicii’s importance to dance music rather than dwell on tragic reality — there are contemplative moments, but all utilizing the thoughtful approach the producer had adopted on the way to stardom. Imagine Dragons, Arizona and “Wake Me Up!” collaborator Aloe Blacc all pay homage, although the most affecting collaboration comes from Coldplay’s Chris Martin, providing vocals on a bittersweet song titled “Heaven.”

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The EP That Every Rap Blog Will Obsess Over All Week:
Future, Save Me

The last time we heard from Future was… less than five months ago, when he dropped his sprawling, triumphant The WIZRD album in January. The fact that one of rap’s hardest-working artists already has a new project is not shocking, but the seven-song Save Me also begs to exist as its own entity, thanks to a tone that’s much more pleading than on its predecessor. While songs like “Love Thy Enemies” and “XanaX Damage” depict Future in a wounded, contemplative place,  “Shotgun” features some of his most vulnerable crooning since his Pluto days. Expect every beat and lyric here to be (justifiably) pored over by the Future faithful until… well, whenever his next fascinating project drops.

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The Song That Will Empower You As You Get Ready To Go Out This Weekend:
MUNA, “Number One Fan”

For the first taste of their second album, indie-pop auteurs MUNA fully reveal their self-doubts and turn them inside out: “Number One Fan” addresses the dread that someone’s social-media detractors may be right about every flaw (“Wouldn’t you like if I believed those words?”) before looking in the mirror and finding the confidence to be your own biggest supporter. After a stint opening for Harry Styles on tour, MUNA is back to making music that’s both fist-pumping and arena-ready.

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The EP That Lets a Country Star Sharpen His Skills:
Luke Combs, The Prequel

At this early point in his career, Luke Combs has already become such a ubiquitous voice in country music — after arriving as such a fully formed presence — that he simply needs to keep doing what he’s been doing in order to find continued success. The Prequel, a new five-song EP, does just that, positioning the smile-inducing lead single “Beer Never Broke My Heart” as a springboard to Combs’ collection of good times and southern charm. Although the new project never overreaches, the affecting “Even Though I’m Leaving,” which opens with a conversation between Combs and his father, deftly shows the new superstar’s range.

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The Song That Could Catapult a Rising Star:
Dominic Fike, “Açaí Bowl”

Singer-songwriter Dominic Fike has already crashed a ton of 2019 playlists thanks to his breakthrough single “3 Nights” and its arresting hook. “Açaí Bowl,” one of two new tracks that he’s released, is more complex and impressive: the song begins as a woozy R&B shanty before Fike hunkers down on a slick rap verse, and spends the rest of its run time swapping styles before reaching a string-led coda. Whether he’s crooning, spitting or something in between, Fike has revealed himself to be one of the year’s most skilled newcomers, and this new offering should continue his upward trajectory commercially.

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The Song With The Collaboration We Never Knew We Needed:
BTS and Charli XCX, “Dream Glow”

BTS and Charli XCX are both prolific pop artists prone to guest features, but “Dream Glow” — to be featured in the upcoming mobile game BTS World — is still surprising, simply by how seamlessly the group and singer-songwriter fit together. As they operate within a habitat of bouncing synthesizers that each artist has embraced, Jin, Jimin and Jungkook offer a vocal approach that’s earnest enough to nicely balance Charli’s party-ready ad-libs. “Dream Glow” ultimately unlocks a pretty fascinating pairing of pop sensibilities… and we have a mobile game to thank for it!

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The Album That Serves as a Strong Hip-Hop Introduction:
Polo G, Die A Legend

Polo G and Lil Tjay have combined for one of rap’s most fruitful collaborations this year, as “Pop Out” has become a TikTok sensation and crashed the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, but the former MC makes a compelling case that he’s much more than one team-up on his proper debut, Die A Legend. “I put passion in every lyric,” Chicago’s Polo G declares on “Through Da Storm,” and while he spends the new album figuring out his respective lane, that passion acts as a guiding light that prevents the strikingly confessional project from lagging. “Deep Wounds” is similarly vulnerable and remarkably detailed; meanwhile, “Pop Out Again” allows Polo G to return to his biggest hit already — this time with Lil Baby and Gunna in tow.

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