First Stream: New Music From Christina Aguilera, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Charlie Puth and More
Written by Cedric Lucas on 22 January 2022
This week, Christina Aguilera stuns in Spanish, YoungBoy Never Broke Again never sleeps, and Charlie Puth lights up our 2022 pop playlists. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
Christina Aguilera, La Fuerza
Christina Aguilera’s Spanish-language music fans may have had to wait over two decades for new tunes to follow 2000’s Mi Reflejo, but the pop icon is finally making their wildest dreams come true, beginning today with the six-song EP La Fuerza and continuing through 2022 with more songs to be eventually bundled into one album. The best part? The songs’ quality is sky-high so far: La Fuerza, which translates to “The Force,” showcases Aguilera’s undying vocal power in nifty new ways, both alongside some of the biggest names in modern Latin music (like Ozuna, on the combustible team-up “Santo”) and on her own (“Somos Nada,” one of the most stunning Aguilera ballads since the early 2000s).
The most prolific rapper in today’s industry is back with a 20-song mixtape four months after releasing a 23-song album: YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s Colors is a quick chaser to the shot of last year’s Sincerely, Kentrell, but his work does not stop and his energy on the mic does not lag. The highlights here rival the best work on the recent LP: “Bring It On” is unhinged battle-rap in the best way, whispers cascading into booming shouts, while “Emo Rockstar” posits YoungBoy as just that over guitar strums and trap beats.
Charlie Puth, “Light Switch”
Nearly four years have passed since Charlie Puth’s last full-length, 2018’s Voicenotes, which featured pop radio mainstays “Attention” and “How Long” — and while the singer-songwriter has issued a few one-off singles in the meantime, new track “Light Switch” is commanding enough to suggest that a proper era is upon us. Produced by Puth himself, “Light Switch” possesses a dreamy ‘80s sheen and a ton of the singer-songwriter’s personal touches, from lip-smacking ad-libs to hooks nestled into bigger hooks, making for both a breathtaking pop fantasia and welcome return.
Walker Hayes, Country Stuff The Album
Walker Hayes spent 2021 touting the surprise country crossover hit of the year, “Fancy Like,” and is starting off 2022 with a full-length that sports that same brand of winking charm as well as expands upon it. Country Stuff The Album is not Hayes’ first rodeo — the 42-year-old has been a steady presence in the country industry for over a decade — and his seasoned songwriting highlights the project, eschewing gimmickry (sorry, no more Applebee’s anthems here) for lyrical panache and some emotional reveals.
Gayle, “Ur Just Horny”
Following up a breakout hit like “abcedfu” is a tall order, but Gayle — whose debut single recently entered the top 10 of the Hot 100 after a quick, TikTok-assisted climb — uses “Ur Just Horny” to show that one song cannot contain her brilliantly unapologetic attitude. The kiss-off to a partner just in it for physical thrills relies on the same guitar-heavy pop-rock blueprint as its predecessor, but Gayle’s snarl is even more impressive here as if newfound confidence has made her lyrical stance even more unshakeable.
Iann Dior, On To Better Things
At 22 years old, Iann Dior is hoping to abide by the title of his latest album, On To Better Things, and build upon the success that he achieved alongside 24kGoldn on their 2020 No. 1 hit “Mood.” Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker, who show up on the heartfelt “Thought It Was,” loom large as influences on the alt-rock effort, although Dior sounds just as natural when nodding more towards pop (“Heartbreak3r”) or hip-hop (the Lil Uzi Vert-assisted “V12”).
Lana Del Rey, “Watercolor Eyes”
“Young love doesn’t always last forever,” Lana Del Rey laments on “Watercolor Eyes” — a fitting declaration for a song featured in the smash HBO series Euphoria. Del Rey has been capturing the delicate balance between reckless passion and emotional ennui in her songs for years, and while this lilting guitar ballad fits in the thematic DNA of Euphoria, “Watercolor Eyes” also gives her a chance to explore the outermost area of her vocal vulnerability on the fragile-as-glass chorus.