Dua Lipa attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Jan. 26, 2020 in Los Angeles.
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, Dua Lipa doesn’t want us to stop dancing, PartyNextDoor has the year’s coolest cameo, and Pearl Jam demonstrate why they’re still a force to be reckoned with. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Album That Will Keep You Boogieing For Many Days To Come:
Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia
In a relatively short amount of time, U.K. pop artist Dua Lipa has made jumps from blog darling to hitmaker to in-demand collaborator to legit A-lister; in some regards, a lot is riding on sophomore album Future Nostalgia to deliver an even wider audience, but based on her track record, it’s hardly a surprise that Lipa passes this new test with flying colors. A nonstop party that borrows from the past to predict where pop is headed (hence its title), Future Nostalgia is brimming with undeniable bangers that re-imagine classic house, techno and disco with modern production techniques. Tracks like “Hallucinate,” “Break My Heart,” “Levitating” and “Physical” beg for motion, and Lipa dares you to deny her growth as a vocal, sexual, lyrical and universal force of nature. Future Nostalgia just moved the bar a little higher for pop in 2020. Piece of advice: spend the coming days, weeks and months dancing to it.
The Album With The Feature That Everyone Will Be Talking About:
All right, first thing’s first: Rihanna is on the new PartyNextDoor album, and with the surprise guest spot on the flickering sing-along “Believe It,” she sounds as comfortable with her superpowers as ever. Yet that big-time get shouldn’t overshadow PND’s artistic leap forward on Partymobile, which finally gives the compelling R&B singer-songwriter a proper collection of songs to progress his early promise. Surrounding the tracks with Rihanna and his OVO boss Drake, PartyNextDoor goes it alone over sparse arrangements, emphasizing his voice and thoughts on modern love instead of any production gimmickry. A song like “Touch Me,” in which he pleads for human connection as the track disintegrates around him, shows what he is capable of, regardless of whether or not he’s buoyed by an A-list feature.
The Album That You’ll Share With Your Dad, But Secretly Be Playing a Lot, Too:
Pearl Jam, Gigaton
Pearl Jam has the sort of fan base and catalog that ensures packed stadiums for years to come, yet Eddie Vedder and co. have never been the kind to remain frozen in the past. Gigaton, their first album since 2013’s Lightning Bolt, matches the tenacity of that project but has a tighter focus, as a lamentation of the Trump era and wake-up call to those who have gotten complacent during it. The album starts off like a firecracker with tracks like “Who Ever Said” and “Quick Escape,” then naturally pulls back, as mid-tempo rocker “Seven O’Clock” toasts those who have challenged the system and “Comes Then Goes” unfolds like a classic Vedder acoustic sing-along. There are several potshots at the president, sure, but the songs that they anchor are some of Pearl Jam’s best of the 21st century.
The Album That Continues One Of Pop’s Most Interesting Trajectories:
5 Seconds of Summer, Calm
Consider 5 Seconds of Summer’s 2018 hit “Youngblood” the ultimate career inflection point: before that synth-rock radio staple was released, the quartet was best known as pop-punk rabble-rousers, and since it took off, the 5SOS guys have made a hard pivot away from anything that would have made sense at Warped Tour. New album Calm is an accomplished exploration of the group’s expanding palette, as “Easier” was inspired by Nine Inch Nails, “No Shame” contains a guitar line straight out of the Depeche Mode playbook, and you’re bound to recall artists like the Smiths, New Order and Peter Gabriel at different moments. Not to say that Calm is derivative — in the same way that Harry Styles recently mastered his own ‘70s pop-rock revival, 5 Seconds of Summer expertly synthesize their influences into fresh-feeling gems like “Wildflower” and “Red Desert.”
The Song That You’ll Need To Schedule Out Some Time To Hear In Full:
Bob Dylan, “Murder Most Foul”
“Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63 / A day that will live on in infamy.” So begins Bob Dylan’s first original song in eight years, a sprawling, nearly 17-minute reflection on the assassination of John F. Kennedy that spirals forward and then becomes so much more. Dylan references touchstones of the ‘60s, from Beatlemania to Woodstock; he name-checks “Only The Good Die Young” from Billy Joel, as well as Etta James and John Lee Hooker; he references A Nightmare on Elm Street; he sings “rub-a-dub-dub.” “Murder Most Foul” will be pored over as an unexpected Dylan artifact and tapestry of American history, but it’s also a poetic reflection on a terrifying time in the world, during another terrifying time in the world, and for that, it should be consumed and appreciated.
The Song That Will Make You Do a Double-Take:
When pressing play on a new Rosalía track, one doesn’t expect to hear the mournful chug of an acoustic guitar as an intro. Yet the new ballad “Dolerme” (which translates to “Hurt Me”) once again finds the Spanish star upending expectations, diverging from her uptempo, flamenco-influenced Latin pop to create something that would sound at home on alternative rock radio. As the strumming leads into a full band arrangement, Rosalía delivers the chorus with a familiar urgency but tinkers with her voice, Auto-Tune making her somehow sound even more vulnerable. And then “Dolerme” is over, and we’re left to play it again and try to figure out how Rosalía pulled off such a surprising pivot.
The Album That Delivers On Years of Hype:
Jessie Reyez, Before Love Came To Kill Us
“I’m taking everything I came for / I ain’t f—king asking,” Jessie Reyez sneers early in her long-awaited debut album. Reyez has always been an artist with a ton of promise, and Before Love Came To Kill Us has been in the works for years — but for a project that has surely been tinkered with and agonized over, the full-length possessed a natural charm that no amount of revising could have dulled. The album’s centerpieces (the moving ballad “Love In The Dark,” the doo-wop-warping Eminem collaboration “Coffin”) find a balance with quieter moments, like the sun-kissed love song “Intruders,” in which Reyez threatens bodily harm to anyone threatening her paradise. Fans have been waiting for years to see Reyez get her shot, and Before Love Came To Kill Us is a singular, successful one.
The Song That You’ll Be Adding To Those Summer Playlists You’re Prepping:
Kygo feat. Zara Larsson and Tyga, “Like It Is”
Superstar producer Kygo’s most recent work has included the single “Higher Love” with rediscovered vocals from Whitney Houston, as well as a musical tribute to Avicii, who passed in 2018. “Like It Is,” a new team-up with Zara Larsson and Tyga that precedes Kygo’s next album, is low-stakes by comparison, but hits like a breath of fresh air after his focus remained on heavier subjects. The new single recalls some of the EDM-pop crossover tracks of the early 2010s, with Larsson guiding the hooks between Kygo’s drops and Tyga sliding in with a radio-friendly verse; the whole affair is expertly designed frothy fun, and has been released just in time for an extended run of ubiquity as the weather heats up.
The Song That Will Get You Excited For Cookout Season:
Florida Georgia Line, “I Love My Country”
Is the “country” that the Florida Georgia Line boys are referring to on their latest single the genre that has made them stars, or the US of A? A little of both, perhaps: while the duo’s comeback track shouts out the American acts and memories that they cherish the most, they do so in a manner that pays homage to classic country radio, as they name-check George Strait and sonically recall Brooks & Dunn. For a pair of former party bros who made their name in country by expanding its sound, “I Love My Country” invites the traditionalists in further, harkening to the past while providing a couple of modern voices. Florida Georgia Line keep it simple here, and score.