Noah Caldwell

Judges for this year's Tiny Desk Contest waded and watched and debated through thousands of entries, but today we finally have a winner: Her family knows her as Mecca Russell – we'll come to know her as Neffy.

Today "has been absolutely wild," she tells All Thing Considered's Mary Louise Kelly in a conversation this afternoon, following the announcement of the news early this morning. "My mom is bursting at the seams," she says, adding that her parents are "really happy, and that makes me happy."

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When the artist Yolanda Quarterly, now better known as Yola, was just a bump in her mother's belly, she was already bopping to music. Yola's mother was a registered nurse, who used to DJ at a hospital's mental health unit. Disco and soul, sounds Yola would hear before entering the world, would go on to influence her later in life.

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It's been remarkable to watch singer-songwriter Joy Oladukun's professional success, despite the pandemic: Her music keeps showing up on popular scripted shows like Grey's Anatomy and This Is Us, leading to live performances on late night shows with Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert — all without really leaving her base of Nashville, Tenn.

On the last edition of Play It Forward, All Things Considered's chain of musical gratitude, funk legend George Clinton spoke about opera singer and funk keyboardist Constance Hauman. In particular, he praised Hauman's many musical talents, which extend across genres.

In January 2020, Angélique Kidjo took the stage at the Grammys to accept the award for Best World Music Album for Celia, a reinterpretation of songs by the Cuban "Queen of Salsa" Celia Cruz. Kidjo's speech wasn't about herself.

"The new generations of artists coming from Africa [are] going to take you by storm," she said. "The time has come."

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I was out for a trail run this past weekend through the woods near my house, and a thrumming filled the air - this thrumming.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS CALLING)

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Let's go back to March 19, 2020. I know you'd probably rather not do that, but stay with me here. The pandemic had just begun, and Adam Weiner of the band Low Cut Connie was feeling just like the rest of us.

On the last episode of Play It Forward, our series in which artists tell us about their own music and the musicians who inspire them, All Things Considered spoke with Angel Bat Dawid, the improvisational musician from Chicago. She told us about her connection to the pioneer of funk: George Clinton.

The first time sociologist Mary de Young heard about QAnon, she thought: "Here we go again."

De Young spent her career studying moral panics — specifically, what became known as the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s, when false accusations of the abuse of children in satanic rituals spread across the United States.

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Depending on the album, St. Vincent might inhabit a persona. Near-Future cult leader, dominatrix at the mental institution - that's how she's described some of them. On her new album, she's going for a time and place.

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On the last edition of Play It Forward, All Things Considered's chain of musical gratitude, Devonté Hynes – the English singer-songwriter, producer, director and genre-spanning creative force behind Blood Orange – spoke about experimental jazz artist Angel Bat Dawid's atmospheric track "London."

How do traditional arts organizations respond to turbulent times?

With a new year comes a new season of "Play It Forward," All Things Considered's chain of artistic inspiration, where we ask musicians to tell us about their work and the people who inspire them, after which we ask the person mentioned for their own, and so it continues. This series often takes leaps from one genre to another, which makes Devonté Hynes a tricky and exciting place to jump back in.

It was poetry that first captured Arlo Parks, not music. As a teenager in West London, the artist read Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," which she remembers emanating a sense of yearning and longing, while also challenging ideas of form and rhyme. Parks says the poem gave off an air of humanity, but was equally strange and intense.

Langhorne Slim is a singer-songwriter by trade — but for more than a year, he could barely write. Slim recalls only writing about a song and a half, and even then it was nothing presentable to others. He had quit drinking years before, but found himself addicted to prescription pills. "I had been numbing myself ... to the source of my own creativity," Slim says. "Really, to the source of love, you know?" So, Slim went into rehabilitation.

Weezer's lead singer and songwriter, Rivers Cuomo, works on so much music simultaneously that, during NPR's interview about the band's latest album, he briefly had to check his notes to remind himself what songs are even on it. The story of OK Human dates back to 2017, when the band decided to begin working on album that would back up its rock instrumentation with an orchestra. As it was wrapping up production, Cuomo got a fateful phone call.

He came from Saturn, on a mission to spread peace through the power of music — or so Sun Ra claimed. "I'm really not a man, you see. I'm an angel," the legendary bandleader said in an interview in the late 1980s. "If you're an angel, you're a step above man."

How can a moment of protest and isolation inspire creative rebirth? That's the question renowned pianist Lara Downes is exploring as the host of a new video series for NPR Music, simply titled Amplify With Lara Downes.

Dr. Joel Zivot stared at the autopsy reports. The language was dry and clinical, in stark contrast to the weight of what they contained — detailed, graphic accounts of the bodies of inmates executed by lethal injection in Georgia.

We have a winner! For the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest from NPR Music, our all-star team of judges reviewed more than 6,000 entries from across the U.S. and chose Linda Diaz, who submitted the song "Green Tea Ice Cream."

With soaring synths, spiked hair and studded leather jackets, the Psychedelic Furs were the quintessential '80s rock stars. But once the '80s ended, so did the band. Now, 29 years after the group's last album, the Psychedelic Furs is back with a new record called Made of Rain. Singer Richard Butler says this time, the band made it on its own terms.

The day Margo Price walked into the studio to start recording her new album, That's How Rumors Get Started, she had butterflies in her stomach, a mixture of excitement, trepidation — and morning sickness.

"I definitely was not expecting to be pregnant," she says. "I had planned to go into the studio regardless of what was happening in my personal life."

Moses Sumney spent years searching for the sound on his new, double album grae. It began in 2013, when he first tried to break into the Los Angeles music scene — and got interest from record labels almost immediately.

Listen close to the New Orleans band Sweet Crude, and you'll hear a linguistic relic from America's deep South. They sing in Louisiana French, a dialect spoken for generations in Louisiana — until the 20th century, when schools in the state became more Anglicized.

"My grandfather's first language is Louisiana French — and he would get punished in school if he spoke French," singer Alexis Marceau says. "So it started to dissipate and go away."

Mandy Moore grew up in the musical spotlight: her 1999 hit "Candy" was released when she was just 15. But for the last 11 years, Moore hasn't released any new music; these days she's more known for playing Rebecca Pearson on the NBC drama This Is Us. Now Mandy Moore the singer is back with a reflective new album called Silver Landings.

This year marks the 250th birthday of one of the most revered composers who ever lived: Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770. Beethoven wrote hundreds of piano sonatas, overtures and chamber pieces, but truly made his mark with his nine symphonies.

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