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 re-adopts an R&B flavor, Hailee Steinfeld’s vocals take flight and Sam Hunt hopes for a positive 2020. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Song That Could Kick Off The Year of R&Bieber:
Justin Bieber, “Yummy”
“Yummy,” Justin Bieber’s new single that kicks off what promises to be a busy 2020, makes an unexpected return to the sound of the pop star’s most fascinating detour — his moody R&B project Journals, created during a period of public backlash in 2013 — even if his world and focus couldn’t be more different than they were six years ago. The Bieber of Journals was scorned, dissatisfied and searching within himself for a sense of forgiveness; the Bieber of “Yummy” is blissfully wed, effortlessly confident and ready to sing about marital sex. “Rollin’ eyes back in my head, make my toes curl, yeah, yeah,” Bieber asserts as a sumptuous arrangement provided by Poo Bear, Kid Culture and Sasha Sitora glides along, ready to bubble up into a trap beat. Your opinion of “Yummy” will likely come down to that ultra-relaxed chorus, which is Bieber’s most simple refrain since his “Baby” days — yet for his part, Bieber sells it as a straight-faced R&B anthem, his silky croon stretching out and ascending into his falsetto (“You got the yum, yum, yum, yum!”) during the final minute.
The Song That Represents The First Real Tearjerker of 2020:
Hailee Steinfeld, “Wrong Direction”
Hailee Steinfeld has spent the past five years making excellent pop music during the breaks in her schedule: a gifted actress who has top-lined projects from The Edge of Seventeen to Bumblebee to the current Apple TV+ series Dickinson, Steinfeld has served her music fans an infrequent stream of singles since her 2015 EP Haiz but nary an album. “Wrong Direction,” a stark new breakup ballad, once again reminds the general public how multi-talented Steinfeld is: “Lookin’ back, I probably should have known / But I just wanted to believe that you were out sleepin’ alone,” she sings, her voice quivering before the strings and piano kick back in. Comparisons to Selena Gomez’s recent No. 1 hit “Lose You To Love Me” are natural, but Steinfeld has a singular approach to pop — one that we hopefully get plenty of in the new year.
The Song That’s Just Looking for a Fresh Start:
Sam Hunt, “Sinning With You”
As one of the biggest names in modern country music, Sam Hunt is searching to turn over a new leaf personally, after being arrested on a DUI charge in November and spending 2019 prolonging the wait for his highly anticipated sophomore LP. “Sinning With You” is an encouraging beginning to 2020 for Hunt, a song that’s more thematically cohesive than previous single “Kinfolks” and a more powerful window into the singer-songwriter’s personal focus; he sings about the type of love that the Lord would smile down upon, but also how his “past was checkered” to the point where he was searching for forgiveness. “Sinning With You” is too meditative to follow the radio wizardry of “Body Like a Back Road,” yet the new track hopefully marks an important moment in the progression of a genre giant.
The Video That Will Get You Flexing Into the Weekend:
Travis Scott and Pop Smoke, “Gatti”
Last week, Travis Scott closed out another triumphant year by surprise-releasing Jackboys, a seven-song Cactus Jack project with enough rock-solid tracks to make it more than just a belated Christmas gift for fans. One of those highlights was “Gatti,” a rattling collaboration with “Welcome To The Party” MC Pop Smoke that now has a juiced-up music video to depict the rappers’ shared victory lap. Fast-forward to the 2:15 mark if you want to see Scott, who was just announced as a Coachella headliner, giddily dancing and head-banging; if you want to enter a new year on the right foot, pay close attention to that particular energy.
The Song That’s The Best Motivation For Your New Year’s Resolutions:
On new single “Changes,” Lauv sounds like a lot of us who ate a little too much over the holidays and raged a little too hard on New Year’s Eve: “I think I’m gonna take a break from alcohol,” he sings, “Probably won’t last that long / But Lord knows I could use some sleep.” Yet “Changes” is more than just a self-improvement wish list: Lauv effectively captures the push-and-pull of desperately wanting to evolve while being afraid of losing yourself and doing too much too fast. The “I Like Me Better” singer-songwriter has unearthed another immediate chorus and compelling narrative hook — and once again could find success at radio by doing so.