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, Demi Lovato and Marshmello team up to inspire, YoungBoy Never Broke Again is never gone for long, and Usher serves a throwback slice of R&B-pop. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Song With a Simple Yet Important (and Timely) Message:
Demi Lovato & Marshmello, “OK Not To Be OK”
Demi Lovato has long used her pop platform to spread awareness on mental health issues — through self-examination in her songwriting, amplifying useful resources and information to her fans, and everything in between. Following the personally revealing “I Love Me,” Lovato has teamed up with Marshmello for a song aimed to encourage outreach during National Suicide Prevention Month, but that also functions as a handy reminder during a uniquely stressful, isolating year for everyone. “When you’re down and you feel ashamed / It’s okay not to be okay,” Lovato sings on the chorus, Marshmello’s disco-inflected production serving as an engaging setting for Lovato’s words of wisdom and hope.
The Album That Continues An Artist’s Positive Momentum:
YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Top
In the past 12 months, Baton Rouge native YoungBoy Never Broke Again has collected two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart (AI YoungBoy 2 and 38 Baby 2), as well as another No. 2-peaking release (Still Flexin, Still Steppin); the fact that he’s already back with a new, 21-song project would be mind-boggling to anyone not paying attention to the ultra-prolific MC’s recent rise. Yet the startling thing about Top is how consistent, and consistently revealing, it is: YoungBoy, a complicated figure with an intoxicating flow and past legal issues, spends much of the project reflecting on his time in the streets, his various struggles and the musical style that has saved him. And for an artist still lacking a crossover hit, “My Window,” a collaboration with Lil Wayne, might just be it.
The Song That Reminds The R&B Youngsters Who’s Still Got It:
Usher, “Bad Habits”
Usher’s new single “Bad Habits” arrives during the same week that the multiplatinum artist announced an upcoming Las Vegas residency, which will undoubtedly showcase a hits-packed career. Add another great one into that setlist: “Bad Habits” finds an artist who no longer needs to prove his radio mettle sounding as effervescent as some of his career peaks, with a hypnotic refrain — “I love love, I’m just bad at it / I just can’t escape all of these bad habits,” Usher admits — and the type of slinky beat that would have slayed in the mid-90s. Following the affecting social justice anthem “I Cry,” “Bad Habits” is the sound of Usher back in his bag of tricks, continuing a career that can stacked against any pop music titan.