Billboard’s Friday Music Guide serves as a handy guide to this week’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, Ed Sheeran honors a fallen friend, Lana Del Rey hoists up her ambitions, and Luke Combs ages gracefully. Check out all of this week’s picks below:
Ed Sheeran, “Eyes Closed”
One year after tragically losing his best friend, Jamal Edwards, to a sudden heart attack, Ed Sheeran has returned with a poignant single that makes his struggle universal and attempts to help any listener mourning a loved one. “Eyes Closed,” which previews the superstar’s affecting new album – (Subtract), combines producer Aaron Dessner’s knack for subtly whirring arrangements with Sheeran’s gift for delivering a memorable hook; grief is a tricky subject for a top 40 mainstay to address in a non-ballad, but “Eyes Closed” provides catharsis through lyrical detail and a unifying refrain.
Lana Del Rey, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd
“I’m a different kind of woman,” Lana Del Rey states plainly on “Sweet,” adding a few seconds later, “If you wanna go where nobody knows, that’s where you’ll find me.” The singer-songwriter has spent her career proving the former statement — taking a personalized approach to pop craft, forever valuing honesty and innovation — but Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, her mammoth and often luminous ninth full-length, indeed exists at a wholly unique intersection in modern music, as the artist’s most singular statement to date.
Click here to read a full review and tracks ranking of Lana Del Rey’s latest album.
Luke Combs, Gettin’ Old
As a companion piece to last year’s Growin’ Up, Luke Combs’ Gettin’ Old better plays to the songwriting strengths of the country superstar, who reflects on his experiences and the time he has left (“That hourglass we have don’t last forever / Been thinking ‘bout it more and more these days,” he sings in the opening minutes of the album) in a way that’s both gracious and entertaining. Whether he’s looking back on a lost love, his hometown, his career beginnings and the start of a more durable type of romance, Combs sounds comfortable in his own skin on Gettin’ Old, and the song quality lives up to his perspective.
Rosalía & Rauw Alejandro, RR
It’s not every day that a couple gets to announce their engagement concurrently with releasing a highly anticipated collaborative project, but Rosalía and Rauw Alejandro are in rarefied air: RR, a three-song release that captures the flamenco pop queen’s predilection for yearning melodies and the reggaeton star’s charisma across quickening tempos, could have been a vanity project for the happy couple but instead crackles with creative chemistry. And RR sound like it’s just the tip of the iceberg — as Alejandro puts it in a press release, “I will be spending my days writing and writing many more songs about and with her.”
It’d be easy (and a bit lazy) to place the BTS members’ solo projects side-by-side as they continue rolling out, but Jimin’s new album Face resists comparison: the tracks here represents an account of personal evolution amidst mind-boggling fame, a global pandemic, feelings of loneliness and the process of growing into the man that the singer-songwriter has become. Jimin’s gentle vocals ground songs like the sizzling “Face-off” and the ‘80s-indebted “Like Crazy,” accentuating the melodies with a light touch and expressing each lyric with impressive confidence.
Fall Out Boy, So Much (For) Stardust
Fall Out Boy’s new album, So Much (For) Stardust, arrives almost 10 years to the day after the band returned with 2013’s Save Rock and Roll, which ended a prolonged hiatus and returned the Warped Tour breakouts to arena audiences. The group has spent the subsequent decade humming along, collecting more hits and touring the world, and their new album represents the work of a locked-in collective: on songs like “Hold Me Like a Grudge” and “So Good Right Now,” Fall Out Boy’s long-running pop appeal remains intact but the turns are pinpoint and the grooves are tighter, as if the quartet is operating with machine-like efficiency for maximum enjoyment.