Stephen Thompson

It's been a hot week full of court documents and news drops. And now, we're ready for a calmer and cooler break with time to breathe. And fortunately, we've got recommendations for podcasts, binge-able television and good reading for your holiday weekend.

A year ago, Saturday Night Live's 45th season ended in a swirl of late adjustments: A planned 21-episode run had to be shortened to 18, with the final three shows cobbled together from the performers' homes. Ranking the season's musical guests meant comparing, say, a knockout production starring Lizzo to black-and-white footage of Chris Martin singing a Bob Dylan cover. Out of 18 performances, two featured former members of One Direction and two featured current members of Coldplay. It was, taken as a whole, as much of a mess as you might expect.

It's been an unusual year for... a lot of things, really, so why should the Oscars be any different?

When we asked our trusty Pop Culture Happy Hour listeners to vote for the Best Muppet, we knew they'd come through. Over 18,000 votes were cast; over 150 different Muppets received votes.

Yes. Some brave, beautiful, misguided soul voted for H. Ross Parrot. As Best Muppet. That is a thing that happened.

The 2021 Grammys somehow survived a COVID-inspired six-week delay, not to mention angry diatribes from The Weeknd, and put together a seamless, entertaining, music-packed telecast that also proved utterly, bafflingly infuriating. How can all that be true? Read on!

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Most of us spent 2020 in a holding pattern — if we're lucky — but Phoebe Bridgers had a massive yea

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NOEL KING, HOST:

2021 was supposed to be better than 2020, and right now, that's looking questionable. But there are some good things coming our way, like new music.

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They feel like sepia-toned dispatches from the Before-Times, beamed from a magical place where musicians could safely raise their voices indoors and let their assembled droplets waft over an appreciative crowd. But the 50 Tiny Desk concerts we published this year — the ones we recorded in NPR Music's Washington, D.C., offices before the pandemic hit — reflect not only a recent past but also a promise for the relatively near future.

Pandemic life has short-circuited many holiday traditions this year, as intergenerational family togetherness has given way to Zoom calls, and Black Friday shopping has given way to the sweet, sweet absence of Black Friday shopping. But it's also a golden opportunity to reboot your routines: to start baking Christmas cookies, or make handmade greeting cards, or lock down a pact with your family to leave the tree up until summer. These are heady and challenging times, so what's to keep you from declaring that Christmas, for you and yours, now takes place from Dec. 23 until June 23?

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This year's interminable election season has helped spawn an outsize assortment of frequently vital protest music. Late Tuesday, as part of Stephen Colbert's election-night special for Showtime, Arcade Fire premiered the first big post-election protest song of 2020.

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Tracy Chapman didn't take long to release her masterpiece.

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It's been nearly five years since Adele released her blockbuster Grammy-festooned album 25 — so you'd

This week's Saturday Night Live musical guest was supposed to be Morgan Wallen, before the country singer got himself disinvited.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The guitarist, bandleader and songwriter Eddie Van Halen died today of cancer. He was 65. His band Van Halen spanned more than four decades, 12 albums, three lead singers and some of the most dramatic guitar solos in rock 'n' roll history.

Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist and songwriter who helped give the rock band Van Halen its name and sound, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 65.

His death was announced by his son, Wolf Van Halen, on Twitter.

"I can't believe I'm having to write this," the statement said, "but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on and off stage was a gift."

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.


We've been trying to make a BTS Tiny Desk concert happen for years now — even gaming out ways we might move Bob Boilen's desk far enough forward to accommodate the superstar Korean boy band's dance moves.

Awards shows often take place amid distractions, from natural disasters to civil unrest to the aftermath of a high-profile death. Sunday night's MTV Video Music Awards had to coexist with all three, not to mention a worldwide pandemic that made it impossible — and, in New York City, illegal — to assemble a live audience.

How did it go? Here are 10 takeaways.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

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Back in April, during the early days of COVID-19, Bon Iver dropped a seemingly free-standing single called "

Taylor Swift was supposed to spend this summer touring songs from Lover, the album she put out last August. Instead, like many of us, she wound up cooped up at home. The isolation seems to have sparked her creativity, leading her to write and record an entirely new record in collaboration with producers Jack Antonoff and The National's Aaron Dessner.

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When John Prine died on April 7 due to complications from COVID-19, he didn't just leave behind a rich recorded legacy.

When Jason Molina died in 2013, the 39-year-old singer-songwriter left behind a mountain of works: wrenching solo albums, released under his own name and as Songs: Ohia, as well as louder electric recordings with his band Magnolia Electric Co. In 2007, Molina had amassed such a backlog of unreleased songs that he by

Cue the Hamilton quotes: Soon the room where it happens will be your living room! Shout it to the rooftops that the Broadway sensation Hamilton will be available for home viewing this summer! Look around, look around to see how lucky we are to be alive in a world where Hamilton is coming to Disney+ on July 3, more than 15 months ahead of schedule!

We're roughly two months into a collective crisis that's kept us sheltered in place, cut off from friends and fearful for the future of our health, our families and our economic well-being. Our emotions frequently form a thick slurry of anxiety, worry, boredom, rage and desperate desire for threads of normalcy; for moments of mundanity; for the calming comfort of the familiar.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected musicians around the world. Many have had to cancel tours, delay album releases and find new sources of income. But some artists have found inspiration in the virus.

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Bon Iver's recent music has been intricately crafted enough that it's bound to roll out sparingly: The gaps

In this era of social distancing, few celebrities have carved out a social media presence as appealing as those of Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. They're married, so they get to share their isolation — and they've been filling the time with a kindhearted weekly YouTube show they call Some Good News.

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