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, Justin Bieber presents his most surprising collaboration of the year, Jesy Nelson goes solo with Nicki Minaj’s help, and Don Toliver takes his best shot at stardom. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Justin Bieber, Justice (The Complete Edition) & “Ghost” video
The first three quarters of 2021 have been huge for Justin Bieber, who unleashed another chart-topping album with Justice, shot to the top of the Hot 100 alongside Daniel Caesar and Giveon with “Peaches,” and enjoyed one of the summer’s biggest hits with “Stay” alongside The Kid LAROI. To kick off the fourth quarter, Bieber has unveiled three new tracks on an expanded edition of Justice — highlighted by the wiggly electro-R&B of “Red Eye,” featuring TroyBoi — as well as one of his most unlikely collaborations to date: Diane Keaton co-stars in the music video for new radio single “Ghost,” playing Bieber’s mom in a surprisingly affecting Colin Tilley-directed clip.
Jesy Nelson feat. Nicki Minaj, “Boyz”
Nearly a year after departing Little Mix, Jesy Nelson is ready to step out on her own: “Boyz,” her debut solo single, receives an assist from Nicki Minaj as well as a heavy interpolation of Diddy’s undying 2001 anthem “Bad Boy For Life,” but Nelson sounds just as engaging outside of a group dynamic as she did within the best-selling UK quartet for years. Diddy even makes an appearance in the “Boyz” video, re-creating Ben Stiller’s interlude from the “Bad Boy For Life” as Nelson stares ahead, ready to get the party re-started.
Don Toliver, Life of a Don
Ever since scoring a flashy feature on label boss Travis Scott’s blockbuster album Astroworld three years ago, Houston rapper-singer Don Toliver has been a tantalizing presence in hip-hop, popping by on high-profile projects while developing his own persona. Life of a Don represents a shot squarely at the mainstream, and offers a compact, satisfying glimpse into who the melodic MC wants to become; Scott stops by twice, including on the blissfully spaced-out “Flocky Flocky,” but solo tracks like “Way Bigger” and “Double Standards” artfully blend rhythmic pop and crooned rapping in a way that’s catnip for modern hip-hop playlists.
Pinkpantheress, “I Must Apologise”
Thanks to her TikTok-friendly pop refreshments and skyrocketing streaming numbers, Pinkpantheress’ debut mixtape, To Hell With It, has quickly turned into one of the most anticipated releases of the fall. The project arrives next Friday, but to tide fans over, the British singer-songwriter has released “I Must Apologise” as an encapsulation of what she does best: bouncy bedroom-pop production, vocals that intriguingly drift just out of focus, immediate hooks and a run time of under two minutes to leave listeners wanting more.
James Blake, Friends That Break Your Heart
For early fans of James Blake, his progression from an avant-garde producer prone to deconstruction to traditional, R&B-leaning songwriter over the past decade has been anything but jarring — the UK star possesses the talent and skill to mold his music in any way he sees fit. New album Friends That Break Your Heart may be Blake’s most straightforward project to date, but the ballads still rely on smartly deployed repetition and absorbing production techniques amidst the verse-chorus structures, making for an accessible listen with hidden details rewarded on repeat plays.
Italian rock group Måneskin is currently enjoying an out-of-nowhere stateside smash with a guitar-heavy, four-year-old cover of The Four Seasons’ “Beggin’,” which has become ubiquitous on multiple U.S. radio formats and crashed the top 20 of the Hot 100. One might wonder: how the heck do you follow something like that up? For Måneskin, new single “MAMMAMIA” doesn’t care about commercial expectations as much as swaggering toward a fun time, with bombastic lyrics (“They ask me, why so hot? ‘Cuz I’m Italian!”) and spiky guitar riffs helping to ring in the weekend.