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.

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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Can your boy band do this?

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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")

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has announced its 35th annual class of inductees, honoring six musical acts — Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G. and T-Rex — as well as veteran rock journalist, producer and artist manager Jon Landau.

The inducted musicians were chosen from a ballot of 16 finalists, which meant fans of Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, MC5, Motörhead, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Soundgarden and Thin Lizzy will have to wait at least another year for Rock Hall validation.

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Every sign points to Ashley McBryde having a huge, huge year in 2020: The country singer experienced a major breakthr

Even though 2019 just ended, we're already looking ahead to the albums scheduled to come out in the first half of 2020. From Moses Sumney's upcoming double album to a folk supergroup starring two of the minds behind Hadestown and Fruit Bats, here are some albums we can't wait to hear in 2020.

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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In the fall of 1991, I was volunteering as a college-radio music director at the University of Wisconsin in Madison when I started telling everyone I knew about

It's no longer uncommon for pop songs to experience a slow rise to the top of the pop charts. Just this year, Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" followed a long and remix-strewn path to 19 weeks at No. 1, while Lizzo experienced huge hits with songs originally released in 2017 ("Truth Hurts") and 2016 ("Good As Hell").

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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

This week's Saturday Night Live asked a lot of Harry Styles, as it brought the former One Direction star onboard to serve as both its host and its musical guest.

When it comes to bands performing at the Tiny Desk, there's dressing up, and then there's dressing up. Just in time for Halloween, we've pulled together a handy playlist starring artists whose stage wear crosses over from "outfits" to "costumes."

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."

Back in the before-times, a pop star would release a single and it'd climb the charts, hit a peak position and begin a slow descent into oblivion. The whole process might take a few months, and then it'd be on to the next single.

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

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

When Sharon Van Etten made her Tiny Desk debut back in the fall of 2010, her voice exuded fragile, gentle grace. Performing songs from that year's Epic, she huddled around a single acoustic guitar with backup singer Cat Martino to perform a set of tender and evocative folk-pop songs.

We've hosted roughly 900 Tiny Desk concerts, so it's a challenge to pick just five to match any superlative you can name. But "Most Uplifting"?

Those of us who've dreamed of a Super Bowl halftime show with Lizzo since at least 2017 will just have to wait a while longer. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Thursday that Super Bowl LIV's halftime show will feature Jennifer Lopez and Shakira — an appropriate pairing for a host city, Miami, known for its rich history with and connection to Latin music.

A lot of the albums out this week deal with self-discovery and deep reflection on the nature of being human. The members of MUNA look at aging and personal growth on their latest, Saves the World; Lower Dens weighs the madness of a country driven by competition; and the country super group The Highwomen releases its highly anticipated, self-titled album, one that celebrates the power of women while pushing back on the unwritten rules that have allowed men to dominate country radio for so long.

After trickling out singles for more than a year, singer Lana Del Rey has finally dropped her sixth full-length studio album with the oddly comical title, Norman F****** Rockwell. On this week's New Music Friday, we dig into this expansive mix of slow-burning ballads and sometimes strange but profound, odyssey-length adventures.

(NOTE: This week's episode was recorded before Bon Iver announced the digital release, three weeks ahead of schedule, of its lovely new album i,i.)

Note: With hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton away this week, we've got an encore presentation of The Worst Songs Of All Time, from Feb. 2014.


Guitarist, actor, writer (and former Monitor Mix blogger) Carrie Brownstein joins us, along with NPR Music's Stephen Thompson, to do something we don't normally do: Talk about the songs we really, really don't like.

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.

Spoon is back — with a greatest hits album. Leading off this week's New Music Friday, Everything Hits At Once is a band-curated alternative to algorithm-manufactured playlists, with a stellar new track ("No Bullets Spent') thrown in.

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Lil Nas X's inescapable, genre-obliterating pop/hip-hop/country smash "Old Town Road" has been No.

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.

Nearly 40 years into their career, The Flaming Lips remain remarkably ageless and endlessly creative. They return this week with another heady, psychedelic pop record inspired by a surreal art installation by frontman Wayne Coyne. On this week's New Music Friday, we climb inside the band's kaleidoscopic new record, The King's Mouth.

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