Stephen Thompson

The audience for Hanson's first Tiny Desk concert could be cleanly sorted into two distinct camps: the curious and the committed.

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

For such an unassuming rock star, Tom Petty sure got to live a lot of lives.

Tom Petty's recorded legacy spans nearly 50 years — from classic-rock standards to deep cuts that hit hard. His songs are wired into the American cultural psyche, whether they soundtracked a misspent youth, accompanied a few decades' worth of love and loss, or merely popped up in an unforgettable moment from Jerry Maguire. Petty's music has been everywhere, which means it's meant something to just about everyone.

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

When Leon Russell died last November, the 74-year-old star was recuperating from heart surgery and itching to get back out on the road. So it's no surprise that Russell — whose music fused soul, rock, gospel and country — left behind an impressive batch of songs that hadn't yet seen release. On Friday, 10 months after his death, On a Distant Shore continues a recorded legacy that hasn't dimmed.

Awards shows often mirror current events, from politically pointed acceptance speeches to winners whose subject matter feels especially relevant in the moment. The 69th Emmy Awards, held Sunday night, didn't skimp on either, as The Handmaid's Tale, Saturday Night Live and Veep posted strong — even dominant — showings over the course of the night.

David Simon and George Pelecanos made The Wire and Treme together, among other shows, and now they've teamed up to create The Deuce, a new HBO drama about prostitution and the rise of the porn industry in New York's Times Square. Set in 1971, when prostitution took place out in the open on Times Square's grubby streets, the show stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Franco (as twins!) and a huge cast of character actors who help form an ambitious web of stories. It's a lot to take in, and the first eight-episode season — which premiered Sept.

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

Ever since the early days of Pop Culture Happy Hour, we've set aside the occasional block of time to champion a few of our favorite entertainers in a segment we call People We're Pulling For. We keep the criteria pretty loose: They can be little-known up-and-comers, major stars at a crossroads, or anything in between. The important thing is that we're rooting for them, and we think others ought to root for them, too.

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

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

If you haven't heard "Namesake," one of the many wildly joyous highlights of Tunde Olaniran's 2015 debut Transgressor, take a few minutes to listen before proceeding with... well, anything in your life. A boundlessly inventive ode to individuality, it sounds, appropriately enough, like nothing else.

Recording under the name Silver Torches, Seattle singer-songwriter Erik Walters specializes in smart and melancholy Americana — the sort of stuff that ought to be catnip to fans of, say, Ryan Adams or late-period Paul Westerberg.

Like many singer-songwriters, Jason Isbell writes music that mirrors developments in his own life. In recent years, that's thankfully included the hard-won contentment he's experienced on his path to 40: sobriety, marriage and on from there.

MTV is the TV network most widely associated with short attention spans. So it makes sense that its Video Music Awards would function as a jarring and disjointed jumble of moments — a howl of protest followed immediately by a singer's tears of joy, or a heartfelt speech by a grieving mother giving way to a performance of "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart and DNCE. In such a barrage, it's unfair to expect any one performance, speech or spectacle to rise above the others, especially as the telecast stretched past three hours.

In the 15-plus years since Sam Beam released his debut album as Iron & Wine, the singer-songwriter has added layer upon layer to his soft-spoken sound.

Let's get one issue out of the way up front: MTV is never again going to build its programming around music videos. For that, viewers have YouTube — as well as MTV's lower-stakes spinoff channels — and besides, if you're old enough to remember when MTV's programming revolved around videos, then you're almost certainly too old for MTV to care what you think.

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