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, Usher heads home before heading to the stadium, Kacey Musgraves digs deeper and Noah Kahan puts a bow on stick season. Check out all of this week’s picks below:
Usher, Coming Home
All eyes will be on Usher on Sunday night, when the veteran hitmaker takes the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show in Las Vegas, and undoubtedly he’ll be unfurling several of the smashes from across his discography. Yet if you’re pre-gaming with “Yeah!,” “U Remind Me” and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love,” be sure to make some time for his excellent new studio set Coming Home, which crystallizes his popular R&B approach and adds new layers — from the sumptuous hit “Good Good” with Summer Walker and 21 Savage to the booming braggadocio of “Cold Blooded” to the Afrobeats-adjacent warmth of “Ruin” — making for Usher’s best album since 2012’s Looking 4 Myself.
Kacey Musgraves, “Deeper Well”
“Deeper Well,” the first taste of Kacey Musgraves’ highly anticipated fifth studio album of the same name, may be lyrically preoccupied with dark energy, changes inspired by a return of Saturn and misconceptions of the world, yet Musgraves operates with calm, pillowy purpose, the finger-picked guitar guiding the country star towards the answers she craves. At the heart of a song about experiencing maturation and accepting transition is an artist worth evolving with, and on Deeper Well, it’ll be fascinating to hear where she grows next.
Noah Kahan, “Forever”
Stick Season was a breakthrough period for Noah Kahan, who most recent studio album was buoyed by deluxe editions and new songs that helped the singer-songwriter score a best new artist Grammy and book arena dates. Stick Season (Forever) will be the final iteration of the project, and in addition to new collaborations with Brandi Carlile and Gregory Alan Isakov, the expanded set features “Forever,” a tender new folk anthem that marries Bon Iver-esque falsetto yearning with the declarative songwriting that highlighted Kahan’s hit “Stick Season” and “Dial Drunk.”
Maggie Rogers, “Don’t Forget Me”
“I wanted to make an album that sounded like a Sunday afternoon,” Maggie Rogers explains in a new letter to fans previewing her third album, Don’t Forget Me. While the rest of the full-length arrives in April, its lovely title track does indeed possess a coziness that still provokes a mid-day sing-along: Rogers’ storytelling winds through the song’s mix of guitar and piano before her voice doubles and soars on the hook, resulting in a track that sounds both fresh and like the return of an old friend.
Gwen Stefani & Blake Shelton, “Purple Irises”
Before Gwen Stefani reunites with No Doubt at Coachella this spring, she’ll trot out “Purple Irises,” a new country-pop duet with her beau Blake Shelton at a Super Bowl tailgate performance this weekend; such is the duality of the pop star, who can return to her earliest hits while also sounding far removed from them on this swaying love song. “It’s not 1999, but this face is still mine / The way you look at me, I swear my heart hits rewind,” she sings, before Shelton’s burly delivery arrives and forms an equilibrium on the track.
Editor’s Pick: Madi Diaz, Weird Faith
Madi Diaz is barreling toward stardom after a long build-up — the Nashville singer-songwriter got tapped to open for Harry Styles’ tour, then join his live band, following the release of her fifth album — but Weird Faith, her first album since gaining a slew of new fans, exceeds any new hype she’s gathered, as a collection of complex love songs that’s often breathtaking in its artistic clarity. Diaz knows exactly how to approach stunners like “Same Risk” and the Kacey Musgraves duet “Don’t Do Me Good,” allowing her emotions to patiently expand until they knock the listener over.