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, NPR's Stephen Thompson compiles The Austin 100 — a playlist of his favorite artist discoveries ahead of the SXSW Music Festival. Though this year's festival was canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus, The Austin 100 will still publish on Monday, the day the music performances were supposed to begin. NPR's Renee Montagne spoke to Stephen Thompson about a few of the artists featured in this year's roundup.

You can stream this playlist via Spotify or Apple Music.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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.

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.

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").

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Three new artists dominated the pop charts in 2019 - Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish and Lizzo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRUTH HURTS")

LIZZO: (Singing) Why men great till they got to be great? Don't text me. Tell it straight to my face.

YouTube

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

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.

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.

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.

Last month, Bon Iver released a pair of new songs — "Hey Ma" and "U (Man Like)" — with little context to surround them.

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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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...

Radiohead's Thom Yorke released his third official solo album, ANIMA, early Thursday morning, along with a short companion film featuring three tracks from the album.

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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