Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he writes the advice column The Good Listener, fusses over the placement of commas 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.

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 the NPR programs Weekend Edition Sunday, 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 two children, his girlfriend, their four cats and a room full of vintage arcade machines. His 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 and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

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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.

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.

When Leonard Cohen died in November 2016, the enigmatic icon left behind a catalog of dark, thoughtful treasures — 14 studio albums' worth of bleakly soulful, eminently quotable poetry. With help from an assortment of past collaborators, including his singer-songwriter son Adam, Cohen is set to return with a new collection of missives from beyond the grave. Titled Thanks for the Dance, it's due out Nov. 22, with a teaser dropping today in the form of a short piece called "The Goal."

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.

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!

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If Sturgill Simpson seemed like an unlikely country star before — back when the Kentuckian was showcasing his rambl

(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.

The dog days of summer are fully upon us, but new album releases are still coming in hot. Chance The Rapper finally released his sprawling, long-awaited "debut album" — though that technically happened last week, just hours after New Music Friday dropped — while Ty Segall dropped his umpteenth full-length effort and Clairo served up some breezily lo-fi Gen-Z irreverence.

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Angel Olsen's 2016 album My Woman found the versatile singer broadening her stylistic reach, lending brashness a

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

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.

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.

It's been eight years since Ed Sheeran released his 2011, career-launching EP, No. 5 Collaborations Project. Now his No. 6 Collaborations Project has arrived and it's a features-heavy flex that shows the singer can pretty much work with anyone, from the country rock of Chris Stapleton to Eminem, 50 Cent and Skrillex. We give a listen on this week's New Music Friday along with K.R.I.T. IZ HERE, Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T.'s followup to his 2010 mixtape K.R.I.T.

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...

After giving us a series of baffling ads in the London Tube and the back pages of the Dallas Observer, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke finally released his third solo album, ANIMA, on Thursday — meaning you won't have to listen to "Not The News" on speakerphone anymore. On this week's New Music Friday, we dive into Yorke's vivid dreamscape and its accompanying film, as well as The Black Keys' electrifying Let's Rock (their first record in five years), Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's fresh collab Bandana and more.

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.

Jim Jarmusch's new zombie comedy The Dead Don't Die features a Murderer's Row of oddball celebrities, including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny, Selena Gomez, RZA, Iggy Pop, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover... and Sturgill Simpson, whose spaced-out country music has made him a cult sensation and Grammy winner.

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It's Sesame Street's 50th anniversary, which is giving the long-running children's TV show countless extra opportunities to interact with the pop-culture world at large.

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?

Our list of the best new albums out this week includes Kishi Bashi's moving remembrance of Japanese internment camps during World War II, a sometimes surreal but lucid dream from R&B singer Raveena, stark solo piano pieces from the electronic artist Eluvium, veteran of the U.K. grime scene Skepta and more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Tom Huizenga, Sidney Madden and Stephen Thompson as they share their picks for the best new albums out on May 31.

Featured Albums

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Beastie Boys' early career brought many highs and lows, as the band transformed itself from a bruising hardcore upstart

Our shortlist of the best albums out this week includes a stirring call for social justice from soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples, rapper YG's powerful remembrance of Nipsey Hussle and the first new release in six years from lo-fi rock veterans Sebadoh. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers, Sidney Madden and Stephen Thompson as they share their picks for the most essential albums dropping on May 24.

Featured Albums:

  1. Mavis Staples: We Get By
    Featured Song: "Sometime"

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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Bruce Springsteen has clearly spent the last few years with an eye toward the past; after all, he did just

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.

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