Billboard’s Friday Music Guide 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, Ariana Grande tries her hand at improv, Lil Nas X tempts blasphemy (again), 21 Savage celebrates his permanent stateside citizenship and more. Check out all of this week’s picks below:
Ariana Grande, “Yes, And?”
Likely the most anticipated new song of the young year, Ariana Grande’s “Yes, And?” announces the return of one of pop’s great stars of the past decade-plus with authority. Rumors that the single would interpolate Madonna’s “Vogue” turned out to be unfounded, but it does flash back to the house-pop sound of the early ’90s, maybe a little closer to George Michael’s “Too Funky” than Madge’s celebratory classic. In any event, it’s a triumphant-sounding, attitude-spitting comeback — like a half-decade-later “No Tears Left to Cry,” with Grande no longer in a state of total crisis and really learning to live life in full again.
Lil Nas X, “J Christ”
Three years after first baiting fundamentalists with his devil-lapdancing video for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” Lil Nas X is back to poke the bear again with new single and visual “J Christ” (as in, “b–ch, I’m back like J Christ”). The song features LNX talking his s–t over a Tay-Keith-like pounding-piano beat from go-to producers Blake Slatkin and Omer Fedi (as well as edgy EDM producer Gesaffelstein), while the clip sees him playing Jesus on the cross and an angel hooping against the devil, among other things. “Is he ’bout to give ’em something viral?” he asks rhetorically on the chorus. Seems likely!
21 Savage, American Dream
After sending the internet into a fury this week with an apparent trailer for an upcoming biopic — with Donald Glover and Stranger Things‘ Caleb McLauhglin splitting the lead role — 21 Savage has returned, not with a new movie as thought, but with the new album American Dream. The 15-track set is both his first solo LP since 2018’s I Am > I Was and his first since officially becoming an American citizen in 2023. It feels appropriately exultant as a result, with big-name guests like Doja Cat, Travis Scott, Summer Walker and of course longtime producer collaborator Metro Boomin helping an in-control Savage commemorate his living the titular aspiration over sun-baked and soulful beats.
Jeymes Samuel, Jay-Z & D’Angelo, “I Want You Forever”
We’re pretty lucky to get one song a year from either Jay-Z or D’Angelo at this point, so to get one with both of them feels like Halley’s Comet. Their new teamup “I Want You Forever” is also a collab with musician and filmmaker Jeymes Samuel, recorded for the soundtrack to his new movie The Book of Clarence. The nine-plus-minute psych-funk groove is one of the least-pop things either artist has ever been involved with — Andre 3000 will undoubtedly tip his flute to the duo if and when he listens — but there’s something undeniably hypnotic about the way the song builds over its extensive runtime, sending D’Angelo in particular into orbit with his rapturous layered vocals.
Jennifer Lopez, “Can’t Get Enough”
Sorta crazy to believe, but it’s actually been longer since we got a proper solo album from Jennifer Lopez than from D’Angelo. Her upcoming This Is Me… Now LP — spiritual sequel to 2002’s This Is Me… Then — will be her first since 2014’s A.K.A., and is led by the blissed-out dancefloor bump of lead single “Can’t Get Enough.” “You got my engine runnin’/ You got the keys to turn me on and on,” J. Lo testifies over Rick James-worthy bass and flute, before dipping into the chorus hook of Alton Ellis’ ’60s reggae classic “I’m Still in Love With You” — borrowed dozens of times before in pop history (from Althea & Donna to Sean Paul & Sasha) and still a winner every time.
Kali Uchis, ORQUÍDEAS
It’s been quite a week for Kali Uchis, as the release of her fourth album ORQUÍDEAS is only the second-biggest headline for her early January: the alt-R&B star also announced that she was expecting her first child with hip-hop hitmaker Don Toliver. The LP alone should be more than enough reason for Uchis’ name to be on everyone’s lips this week, however. Her second predominantly Spanish-language set is an enthralling collection that proves the signer-songwriter to be at the vanguard of forward-thinking (and forward-moving) pop and R&B, with valuable assists from big-name guests like Rauw Alejandro, Karol G and even a thrillingly out-of-his-element Peso Pluma on discofied likely smash “Igual Que Un Ángel.”
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