Ann Powers

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.

One of the nation's most notable music critics, Powers has been writing for The Record, NPR's blog about finding, making, buying, sharing and talking about music, since April 2011.

Powers served as chief pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times from 2006 until she joined NPR. Prior to the Los Angeles Times, she was senior critic at Blender and senior curator at Experience Music Project. From 1997 to 2001 Powers was a pop critic at The New York Times and before that worked as a senior editor at the Village Voice. Powers began her career working as an editor and columnist at San Francisco Weekly.

Her writing extends beyond blogs, magazines and newspapers. Powers co-wrote Tori Amos: Piece By Piece, with Amos, which was published in 2005. In 1999, Power's book Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America was published. She was the editor, with Evelyn McDonnell, of the 1995 book Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Rap, and Pop and the editor of Best Music Writing 2010.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University, Powers went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of California.

The latest round of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions were announced today, and Whitney Houston is the only woman honored.

Morning Edition's series called One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers in the United States are defined by a single monster hit, and explains why their catalogs have much more to offer.

In this installment, NPR Music's Ann Powers argues that Janis Ian, who won the Grammy for best pop vocal performance in 1975 for "At Seventeen," pioneered what we now consider the adult contemporary genre. Read Ann in her own words below, and hear the radio version at the audio link.

The last decade of music saw major artists break many of the rules about how to release an album. Beyoncé and Drake popularized the "surprise release" — putting out albums with little to no roll-out at all. So in the era of surprise digital drops, and at the beginning of a new year of music, how do you make predictions about what's coming?

In a culture infatuated with the idea of bending time, music lovers may not often consider that such miracles happen constantly in the course of everyday listening. Your life may not literally loop the way Nadia Vulvokov's did in Russian Doll, or toddle from past to present to future like Angela Abar's in Watchmen. But did you ever make a playlist that segues from Lizzo to Stevie Wonder?

What is the most urgent undertaking for an artist in 2019? Perhaps it is to find music in the noise oppressing the atmosphere, the (mis)information, static and chaotic emotion permeating people's heads. For example: Billie Eilish, the Los Angeles teenager who, with her 22-year-old brother Finneas, made the most streamed and talked-about album of 2019, was once getting her braces adjusted, listening to the whir of the drill shaving down their edges.

The Grammy Awards' category for new artists has always been the Hufflepuff house of the event, a mishmash of eccentrics, high achievers and hard-working young music industry favorites. (Notorious category winners Milli Vanilli did work hard, just not at singing.) Rarely has the field clearly pointed toward an exciting new musical era. But this year, that's exactly what it suggests.

Songs Against The Suits

Nov 15, 2019

On Thursday night, Taylor Swift threw another volley in her ongoing battle with the two men she considers the captors of her legacy.

When Brandi Carlile decided to perform Joni Mitchell's 1971 album Blue in its entirety at Disney Hall – the primary home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the site of many classical music premieres — one reason was to remind the audience of the 75-year-old's near-singular status among popular musicians of the past half-century. "We didn't live in the time of Shakespeare, Rembrandt or Beethoven," she said before she began her October 14 performance. "But we live in the time of Joni Mitchell."

Courtney Marie Andrews and Rhiannon Giddens harmonize with all their hearts on the Carter Family's "You Are My Flower" during the 2019 NPR Music Turning the Tables opening concert at Lincoln Center.

Watch the full Turning the Tables tribute to 8 Women Who Invented Popular Music, recorded live at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and read more about the series.

Lizz Wright stuns with a somber version of "Strange Fruit," made famous by Billie Holiday, during the 2019 NPR Music Turning the Tables opening concert at Lincoln Center.

Watch the full Turning the Tables tribute to 8 Women Who Invented Popular Music, recorded live at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and read more about the series.

Charenée Wade dazzles with her Ella Fitzgerald-style vocalese, performing the Mary Lou Williams composition "What's Your Story Morning Glory?" during the 2019 NPR Music Turning the Tables opening concert at Lincoln Center.

Watch the full Turning the Tables tribute to 8 Women Who Invented Popular Music, recorded live at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and read more about the series.

Xiomara Laugart, joined by Lea-Lorién Alomar and Gerardo Contino and the house band, pays tribute to Celia Cruz with a lively "Guantanamera" during the 2019 NPR Music Turning the Tables opening concert at Lincoln Center.

Watch the full Turning the Tables tribute to 8 Women Who Invented Popular Music, recorded live at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and read more about the series.

Valerie Simpson burns it all down performing "Send Me To the 'Lectric Chair," a signature song of Bessie Smith, during the 2019 NPR Music Turning the Tables opening concert at Lincoln Center.

Watch the full Turning the Tables tribute to 8 Women Who Invented Popular Music, recorded live at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and read more about the series.

Chills all around as Lizz Wright and Rhiannon Giddens invoke the spirit of concert music great Marian Anderson with the spirituals "Deep River" and "Go Down Moses" during the 2019 NPR Music Turning the Tables opening concert at Lincoln Center.

Rhiannon Giddens gets the spirit — of fierce rock and roll independence — as she leads the band in a rousing version of the gospel classic "Up Above My Head," made famous by Rosetta Tharpe and Marie Knight in 1947.

Watch the full Turning the Tables tribute to 8 Women Who Invented Popular Music, recorded live at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and read more about the series.

Just try to keep up with Charenée Wade as she slays "Cotton Tail," which Ella Fitzgerald included in her 1957 Ellington songbook album, during the 2019 NPR Music Turning the Tables opening concert at Lincoln Center.

Watch the full Turning the Tables tribute to 8 Women Who Invented Popular Music, recorded live at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and read more about the series.

The trash on the Venice boardwalk sparkles like Wet n Wild lip gloss. This is what people forget about Los Angeles beaches: They're part of the city, inundated with the city's grit. Half-melted Icees in Styrofoam cups, one flip-flop, taco foil, condoms, a dead vape pen. Needles. But also: a Swarovski crystal earring. A pinwheel unmoored from its handle. A streak of gooey glitter. Coins of many lands. A few miles up the Pacific Coast Highway, away from the skateboarders and homeless people, WASPs sun themselves at country clubs as employees sweep the sands.

Sleater-Kinney took a lot of chances on its latest album, The Center Won't Hold, upending its much beloved sound to experiment with strange sonics, dark textures and surprising forms. The result is one of the most adventurous, exciting – and best – albums the band has ever made. We open this week's New Music Friday with a look at how and why The Center Won't Hold works and what the recent departure of drummer Janet Weiss means for the band at this point in its quarter-century long career.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

The radio version of this story includes conversations with campers and counselors at girls' rock camps, where "Rebel Girl" has become essential listening. Hear the piece at the audio link .

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. When music historians talk about the pillars of American popular music, they sometimes neglect half the population. Women are too often excluded from this conversation. NPR Music has been trying to offer some balance through an ongoing series called Turning the Tables, and Season 3 begins today.

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By Ann Powers

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.

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.

In 1981, after reading the paraplegic veteran Ron Kovic's memoir Born on the Fourth of July, Bruce Springsteen staged a concert to benefit the advocacy group Vietnam Veterans of America. For the encore, he played a song he hadn't performed before and hasn't since.

Here's a thing you should know before watching Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, Martin Scorsese's new Netflix documentary about one of the most notorious rock tours in the genre's history: Bob Dylan is messing with you. Dylan has been messing with people since his first braggadocio days in Greenwich Village, when his made-up tales of wandering the Southwest with a circus helped convince his friends in the folk scene that he was the real proletarian deal.

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"

Before And After

May 11, 2019

Has anyone ever told you a secret that, in an instant, changed everything? It usually happens in a very private place — at the kitchen table, maybe, or in the close confines of a car. The teller was likely someone close to you. A lover. A family member. Your oldest friend. Telling you, I was raped. Or Our cousin Jason abused me. Saying something you might have wished, for one selfish moment, hadn't been said.

Our shortlist of the best new albums out this week includes a deeply moving celebration of African American culture and history from the singer Jamila Woods, the sparkling, soul-searching guitar rock of Charly Bliss, composer Holly Herndon's brilliant collaboration with the AI known as "Spawn" and more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson as they share their picks for the best new albums out on May 10.

Featured Albums:

  1. Charly Bliss: Young Enough
    Featured Song: "Hard to Believe"

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