First Stream: New Music From Calvin Harris, DJ Khaled With Drake and Lil Baby, WILLOW & More

·5 min read

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: Calvin Harris‘ low-rider comes bouncing back around the band, Benny Blanco makes the not-so-bad decision to bring BTS and Snoop Dogg together, and DJ Khaled, Drake and Lil Baby pick out matching leisure suits. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below.

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Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2

Just in time for the dog days of summer, the follow-up to Calvin Harris’ widely acclaimed and fan-beloved 2017 set Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 is finally here with Vol. 2, another star-studded warm-weather set of liquid grooves and sublime melodies for your top-down cruising pleasure. Like many sequels, it’s a little bloated and not quite as fresh as the original — but if you never quite got enough of Vol. 1, there’s still plenty here to enjoy, like mope-pop stalwart Charlie Puth and rising dancehall star Shenseea finding common ground over the sweet melancholy of “Obsessed,” or legendary MC Busta Rhymes reminding how he’s capable of dominating the mic like few others with the stunning solo showcase “Ready or Not.”

DJ Khaled feat. Drake & Lil Baby, “Staying Alive”

You see that song title and the discofied cover art you only have one question: Are DJ Khaled, Drake & Lil Baby going to be strutting through “Staying Alive” like Tony Manero at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever? The answer: not really, as “Staying Alive” is to the Bee Gees’ 1977 disco standard as Drake’s “Way 2 Sexy” is to Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” — a borrowed chorus hook that provides a thematic jumping-off point without really informing the rest of the song musically. Still, even if Khaled & Co.’s “Staying Alive” wouldn’t necessarily have gone off at 2001 Odyssey, it’d probably be appreciated by a lot of its Brooklyn neighborhood’s current tenants, for its world-weary Nyan & Tim Suby beat and long-proven chemistry between its galactic co-leading MCs.

Benny Blanco feat. BTS & Snoop Dogg, “Bad Decisions”

If BTS have made a single bad decision in the past seven years, it’s escaped our notice. The Korean pop superduperstars aren’t starting here with this teamup with rap all-timer Snoop Dogg (pulling double duty on New Music Friday this week following his appearance on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2‘s “Live My Best Life”) and longtime pop power player Benny Blanco. “Bad Decisions” glides in on a delectable up-tempo pop-soul groove — the kind that made Maroon 5 inescapable on top 40 radio in the middle of the past decade — with a days-of-the-week BTS chorus hook that’s never a bad idea, and an always-welcome amount of Uncle Snoop filling in around the margins.

WILLOW, “hover like a GODDESS”

We’ve learned to expect the unexpected from WILLOW‘s solo material, and “hover like a GODDESS” is no exception: a nervy,  almost new wavey blast of impossibly tense energy — sounds like Paramore aren’t the only ones who’ve been listening to a lot of Bloc Party lately — leading to an explosive shout-along chorus (“I’ll never be fine if you won’t be mine!”). And yet, despite.a short 2:23 run time, the song finds room for not one, but two beatless breakdowns, appreciated respites from the anxiety that give you just enough time to wonder what the hell is going on in that single art.

The 1975, “Happiness”

As is practically company policy for The 1975 at this point, the first track unveiled from their upcoming album — in this case, “Part of the Band,” from the October-due Being Funny in a Foreign Language — was a challenging re-introduction to their new era, but their second return is a pure crowd-pleaser. “Happiness” is a dance-pop scorcher in the vein of I Like It When You Sleep‘s “The Sound” or Notes on a Conditional Form‘s “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know),” with a post-disco beat and glossy ’80s production — though this time the lyrics (nearly) match the unencumbered release of the music (“I’m happiest when I’m doing something that I know is good… show me your love, why don’t you?”) Comes in a “Dance Floor Edit” as well, but make sure to listen to the full version; you don’t want to cheat yourself out of any of that sax, do you?

Lauv, All 4 Nothing

“He made a couple songs and they got big/ He thought that he could do whatever he wanted/ But it all left him with a hole in his heart.” So goes bleary-eyed All 4 Nothing opener “26,” setting the tone for the singer-songwriter’s sophomore mainstream-wary album All 4 Nothing. Released a half-decade after “I Like Me Better” briefly made Lauv the toast of top 40, All 4 Nothing is full of immaculately crafted alt-pop songs that are just a little bit rawer than most of the singer born Ari Staprans Leff’s contemporaries — whether thanking his lucky stars that he never over-committed to a bad relationship in “Stay Together” or pleading “don’t let me die in the dark” in a panic on the appropriately titled “Bad Trip.” Even if it doesn’t get him back to the top of his charts, it should bring him closer to himself (and his fans) as an artist.

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