Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the weekly NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

In 1993, Thompson founded The Onion's entertainment section, The A.V. Club, which he edited until December 2004. In the years since, he has provided music-themed commentaries for NPR programs such as Weekend Edition, All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the first member of the NPR Music staff ever to sing on an NPR newsmagazine. (Later, the magic of AutoTune transformed him from a 12th-rate David Archuleta into a fourth-rate Cher.) Thompson's entertainment writing has also run in Paste magazine, The Washington Post and The London Guardian.

During his tenure at The Onion, Thompson edited the 2002 book The Tenacity Of The Cockroach: Conversations With Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders (Crown) and copy-edited six best-selling comedy books. While there, he also coached The Onion's softball team to a sizzling 21-42 record, and was once outscored 72-0 in a span of 10 innings. Later in life, Thompson redeemed himself by teaming up with the small gaggle of fleet-footed twentysomethings who won the 2008 NPR Relay Race, a triumph he documents in a hard-hitting essay for the book This Is NPR: The First Forty Years (Chronicle).

A 1994 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Thompson now lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his girlfriend, his daughter, their three cats and a room full of vintage arcade machines. (He also has a large adult son who has headed off to college but still calls once in a while.) Thompson's hobbies include watching reality television without shame, eating Pringles until his hand has involuntarily twisted itself into a gnarled claw, using the size of his Twitter following to assess his self-worth, touting the immutable moral superiority of the Green Bay Packers (who returned the favor by making a 22-minute documentary about his life) and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

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Short of Lana Del Rey, it's hard to imagine a modern pop star better suited to James Bond themes than Billie Eilish

Last year, the Oscar for best original song was preordained: It was going to "Shallow," come hell or high water, in spite of the clear and obvious superiority of Kendrick Lamar's "All the Stars." That was an unusually strong year for movie songs — you could have put together a strong slate using only tracks that didn't get nominated — but the category didn't exactly hold the movie world in suspense.

"Now get back to work!"

Every year around this time, members of the All Songs Considered team — including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton and me — each dredge through nearly 2,000 songs by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, in search of great new discoveries. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of acts, many slip past our radar altogether.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Billie Eilish, at just 18 years old, is already one of the world's biggest pop stars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD GUY")

Neil Innes, whose gift for wry and funny songwriting led to work with Monty Python, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and The Rutles, died Sunday, December 29. His death was confirmed by his agent, Nigel Morton, who said in a statement that Innes died "quickly, without warning," of natural causes. He was 75.

In a statement, Innes' family wrote:

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Before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda was known for writing the music and lyrics for the Tony and Grammy a

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

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On Wednesday, Bon Iver was nominated for four Grammy Awards, snagging nods for record of the year (for "Hey, Ma"), as well as album of the year, best alternative music album and best r

It's only natural to imagine conversations with your past selves; to warn them of bad choices you've made, or to blow their minds with unlikely facts about the present day. And though it's not the first thing you'd tell your 2007 self — it'd come sometime after "The star of TV's The Apprentice is now president of the United States" — you'd want to make room for the words, "Bob Boilen's desk is such a popular tourist destination that NPR sold tickets and people bought them."

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Between Two Ferns, the Zach Galifianakis comedy series, is full of awkward celebrity encounters and interviews gone haywire.

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In 1984, Chaka Khan enjoyed a career-revitalizing smash with "I Feel

On this early Tuesday morning, we sit facing a yawning precipice: the longest possible stretch of time in which no one is called upon to watch MTV's Video Music Awards. Bask in the sweet, creamy silence of it all. We've earned it!

Joey Burns and John Convertino had just about seen it all. Their band, Calexico, has been around for nearly a quarter-century, and in that time together they've churned out a long string of albums and collaborated with countless musicians on countless projects. But they'd never set foot behind the Tiny Desk until the day we recorded this performance.

Don't see the video above? Click here.

Lots of musicians cut corners during sound check. It's a time to make sure everyone's in tune and in balance, everyone's blocked properly for the cameras, and every piece of recording equipment is doing its job the way it's supposed to, but it's not as if anyone's rolling tape for posterity. Sometimes, Tiny Desk artists do their sound check in shabby street clothes before ducking into the green room to don their fancy performance wear. It's standard procedure, and no big deal at all.

In 1985, a team of country-music legends formed The Highwaymen, a supergroup combining the talents of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

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And finally today, have you picked your song of the summer?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPACITO")

LUIS FONSI: (Singing in Spanish)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALIFORNIA GURLS")

KATY PERRY: (Singing) California girls, we're unforgettable...

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Most aspiring pop stars dream of one day churning out "the Song of the Summer" — that one inescapable jam that blows up every hot-weather radio playlist, beach party, car stereo and YouTube binge. Some of them may be frothy, seemingly disposable pop confections, but there's a certain permanence to Song of the Summer status; once you've reached that milestone, you're forever embedded in the memories of summertime revelers the world over. (Want proof?

Saturday Night Live's 44th season ended over the weekend with the help of host Paul Rudd and musical guest DJ Khaled, who brought with him an all-star cast that included J Balvin, John Legend and SZA.

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If you've spent time with Brandi Carlile's terrific 2018 album By the Way, I Forgive You, you already know "T

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A multilingual K-pop juggernaut, BTS mashes up pop, hip-hop, rock and dance music with huge, infectious energy and kinetic choreography.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

It's a packed release week with a whole bunch of notable albums to highlight, including the rock guitar heroics on Ex Hex's It's Real, the wistful wisdom of Jenny Lewis, Andrew Bird's "finest work yet," mind-blowing sonics from the genre-bending composers Emily Wells and Lafawndah, the German electronic artist Apparat and much more. Hosts Robin Hilton and Stephen Thompson share their top picks for the best albums out on March 22 on this episode of New Music Friday.

Featured Albums:

SXSW Music Preview

Mar 10, 2019

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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When you're filling out your Oscar pool, there are always a few boxes everyone checks. Maybe it's a performance that's swept every other awards show, or maybe it's a movie that seems to have every possible metric on its side. But when you check that box, you know you're virtually guaranteed to get at least one right.

Our picks for the best albums out this week include an epic treatise on Americanism from Gary Clark Jr., the delicate and beautiful sounds of Julia Jacklin, Atlanta rapper Gunna, a gorgeous study in the healing powers of restraint from Lowland Hum, and more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Rodney Carmichael and Stephen Thompson as they share their top picks for Feb. 22.

Featured Albums

  • Gary Clark Jr., This Land
    Featured Song: "Gotta Get Into Something"

We made it, everyone! This year's Grammy Awards telecast rolled past the three-and-a-half-hour mark with its share of controversies, but also served up a string of satisfying winners, memorable performances and a GIF sure to endure until roughly the moment life on earth is extinguished. Here are 10 takeaways from 2019's overstuffed and idiosyncratic Grammy Awards.

Whatever you think of the Grammy Awards, they do provide an intriguing snapshot of how the music industry wishes to see itself — particularly in terms of its chosen standard-bearers. In one three-and-a-half-hour flurry of awards and performances, you'll get a cross-genre infomercial and, if you curate your Twitter feed right, an evening-long feast of social-media jokes and commentary.

On this sprint through the week's best new albums, host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna and Stephen Thompson for a whole lot of guitar rock, with a little bit of melancholy, acoustic beauty on the side. This includes Spielbergs, a group from Oslo, Norway, that makes its US debut with a fantastic squeal of feedback on This is Not the End; the L.A. quartet Cherry Glazerr, which just dropped its most emotionally potent and fully formed album ever; Girlpool, Le Butcherettes, the beautifully transporting songs of Tiny Ruins and more.

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