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First Stream: New Music From Justin Bieber & Benny Blanco, Lana Del Rey and More

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 and Benny Blanco stay somber, Lana Del Rey wants to run away with you, and Nicki Minaj has got a crackling new remix. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

The Song That Reunites Two Huge Pop Names:
Justin Bieber & Benny Blanco, “Lonely”

Justin Bieber’s 2020 output has generally leaned toward the optimistic: on his album Changes and recent single “Holy,” the superstar sings about the comfort of marriage and finding peace after battling demons. On the affecting “Lonely,” however, he revisits those subjects that once bedeviled him, somberly looking back on the moments of his career in which “everybody saw me sick / And it felt like no one gave a s–t,” as a piano line steadies his ache. Super-producer Benny Blanco has worked with Bieber multiple times before, most notably on the acoustic-pop hit “Love Yourself,” and for this reunion, they’ve also corralled Finneas to co-produce these particular shades of gray.

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The Song That Will Sound Great While Driving Down a Highway:
Lana Del Rey, “Let Me Love You Like a Woman”

Lana Del Rey’s first new song since her brilliant 2019 album Norman F–king Rockwell represents the sound of comfort: trying to convince her romantic partner to drive away from Los Angeles with her and forge a simpler life, Del Rey is offering an existence of care and devotion, in exchange to be talked to “in poems and songs.” “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” is classically romantic but always understated, as Del Rey operates over piano and slide guitar provided by frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff and delivers a vocal take that’s confident in its power to hypnotize. Del Rey has become similarly unflappable as a songwriter, and her latest is a fully realized continuation of a remarkable creative run.

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The Remix That You’ll Want To Play Very Loudly In Your Car:
Sada Baby feat. Nicki Minaj, “Whole Lotta Choppas (Remix)”

Nicki Minaj has hopped on a countless number of songs as a guest artist, but never before has she announced her arrival on a track by exclaiming, “Nine months motherf–king pregnant, like what!” This remix to Detroit rap savant Sada Baby’s slowly-going-viral hit “Whole Lotta Choppas” has been blessed with an extended cameo from Minaj, recording just before she became a new mom and dropping references to the Black Lives Matter movement, vaping and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo in a matter of seconds. Sada Baby wisely cedes the first half of the new version to his guest, then comes in, unfurls his own top-notch wordplay and reminds us of the original’s magic.

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The Song That’s More Effective Than Lots of Cable News:
Demi Lovato, “Commander in Chief”

Aside from the obvious risk of alienating fans with different political views, releasing a song titled “Commander in Chief” that decries a president who may very well be voted out of office in less than a month, is a move that could be precarious when it comes to the shelf life of that song. Fortunately for us, Demi Lovato doesn’t care about such trivial matters, and has dropped a beautifully scathing ballad at a moment when the pop world needed her sense of urgency. “Won’t give up, stand our ground / We’ll be in the streets while you’re bunkering down,” she sings, crafting a message for the moment as well as a song that will endure as one of her most undeniable vocal takes to date.

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The Album That Checks In With a Hip-Hop Great:
T.I., The L.I.B.R.A.

Any rap fan who was around in the second half of the 2000s knows to never discount the magnetism of T.I., who can nod to a front-to-back classic full-length like 2006’s King or a hits-packed mega-seller like 2008’s Paper Trail. New album The L.I.B.R.A. (an acronym for “The Legend Is Back Running Atlanta”) posits Tip as the still-dynamic king of the south who has no problem sharing the stage with the next generation of ATL titans, as Lil Baby, Young Thug and 21 Savage are among the guest-packed lineup. T.I. is convincing on these flashier collaborations, but the highlight here is “How I Feel,” a reflection on protesting, police brutality and growing up Black that features Killer Mike and Eric Bellinger.

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The Song That Takes Aims At The Liars and the Dirty, Dirty Cheats:
Lauv & Conan Gray, “Fake”

Back in March — a month that feels like it occurred several years ago! — Lauv and Conan Gray both released their respective debut albums, How I’m Feeling and Kid Krow, and those full-lengths have endured as two of the more accomplished pop showcases of 2020. Now, the singer-songwriters have intertwined their rise with “Fake,” an anthem against everything two-faced, with a shout-along chorus and some charming lyrical details — Lauv is sick of all the social media sanitizing, while Gray could go without the drunk dialing that’s brushed off the following morning. “Fake” represents a pairing that makes sense on paper and is even more compelling in practice.

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The Album To Show Your ’90s-Loving Older Sister:
Beabadoobee, Fake It Flowers

For those who only know British-Filipino singer-songwriter Beabadoobee from Powfu’s viral hit “Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head),” which sampled her track “Coffee,” get ready to learn a lot more with Fake It Flowers, one of the most exciting pop-rock debuts of 2020. Beabadoobee spends the album synthesizing a myriad of genres — indie-pop, grunge, even a little emo — as well as harkening back to ‘90s alternative music queens like Liz Phair and PJ Harvey. Although Beabadoobee wears her influences proudly, her perspective is fresh and vibrant on Fake It Flowers, on radio-ready flare-ups like “Worth It” and on chugging, gloriously noisy ballads like “Sorry.”

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The Song That Could Be A Rapper’s Way Back to the Top:
G-Eazy feat. Blackbear, “Hate the Way”

After leading hits like “No Limit” and “Him & I” back in 2017, G-Eazy has taken some artistic detours in recent years, most notably on this year’s alternative-leaning album Everything’s Strange Here. With “Hate the Way,” a new collaboration with Blackbear, the rapper has refocused his aim back toward top 40, deploying an ultra-catchy hook and spinning a tale of an imperfect romance that he just can’t quit. Blackbear makes for a capable sidekick while leading the chorus, but the sound of G-Eazy, cozy in the lane that made him a star, should excite fans for whatever comes next.

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The Song That Starts The Weekend Off on a Strong Note:
Paris Hilton, “I Blame You”

Fourteen years after dropping the still-potent “Stars Are Blind,” Paris Hilton has a few more tricks up her finely tailored sleeve: the veteran DJ has released a new single that’s ripe for the dance floor, whenever those reopen. “I Blame You,” a collaboration with the producer LODATO, finds Hilton delivering breathy vocals and making room for an animated beat drop that powers a straightforward hook. Hilton has spent the past decade developing an impressive live resumé, and “I Blame You” makes for a fun check-in with a seasoned star — and, yes, another excuse to fire up “Stars Are Blind” on our preferred streaming service.

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Credit: Original article published here.

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