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The Musical Universe

 

For the past year, NPR has been taking a deep look at American anthems and all the forms they can take. These are the songs that unite us, inspire us or say something about what it means to be an American — songs as traditional as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," or as defiant as Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

Do you have "a signature song"? A song you always sing in the shower? A song you play after a breakup? A song you play to get ready for the day? A song you keep coming back to year after year?

NPR's Weekend Edition wants to talk with you about your signature song. Please fill out the form below or here. We may contact you for an upcoming story.

July 1, 2019 was supposed to be the day that the prestigious music school Westminster Choir College [WCC], in Princeton, N.J., was sold to a for-profit company that is based in Beijing and partly owned by the Chinese government.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

The country-pop record company Big Machine Label Group, one of the most successful independent labels in the country — and the longtime label home of megastar Taylor Swift — has been sold. It was purchased by Ithaca Holdings, an umbrella company owned by Scooter Braun, the manager of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, among others. According to anonymous sources quoted by The Wall Street Journal, the deal is valued at more than $300 million.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Monday, drummer Janet Weiss announced that she is leaving Sleater-Kinney.

"After intense deliberation and heavy sadness, I have decided to leave Sleater-Kinney," she writes. "The band is heading in a new direction and it is time for me to move on."

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Before iPods, before iPhones, there was the Sony Walkman, a little cassette player that revolutionized music. NPR's Brian Jarboe has this appreciation as it turns 40.

American Anthem: The Playlist

Jul 1, 2019

Sometimes, a song isn't just a song: It's shorthand for an idea. Some songs can rouse and rally huge masses of people at once, whether they're chanting in a stadium, marching in the streets or sweating it out on the dance floor.

NPR's American Anthem is about those songs. A yearlong series of reported pieces, appearing both on air and online, American Anthem was created to identify 50 pieces of music that have found anthemic status in American life, and unpack how and why they've come to mean so much to so many.

Dating back to 1986, a recently unearthed video offers a rare glimpse of Freddie Mercury performing without a full band behind him. In the video, the famous Queen frontman sings "Time Waits for No One" from the concept album of the musical Time, accompanied only by a piano.

Between their formation in 2001 and last album in 2014, guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney released eight LPs as The Black Keys and became household names with songs like "Tighten Up" and "Fever." When the duo took a break from recording and touring after years and years on the road, rumors flew that the two men had had a falling out.

According to the band, the truth is much simpler: "It was about time," Auerbach says. "We needed a little bit of normalcy."

More than six decades into a trail-blazing career in music, and recently named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, Abdullah Ibrahim shows no signs of slowing down. The legendary jazz pianist, composer and anti-Apartheid activist — Nelson Mandela called him the "Mozart of South Africa" — has released his latest album called The Balance and says he's already busy working on the next one.

Quinn Christopherson was named winner of 2019's Tiny Desk Contest and although the contest only has one winner, there were many impressive and touching performances submitted for the judges' consideration by the 6,000-plus contestants. This summer, Weekend Edition is highlighting some of the stand-out entries.

The music comes fast and furious into Alt.Latino World Headquarters. The first half of 2019 saw just as much amazing new music as any other year; it feels as if the bar keeps raising not just every year, but every six months.

Summer's here and the time is right for looking back on some of our favorite World Cafe sessions of the year! Let's just say, it's been an inspiring one so far.

With little advanced notice, Daniel Caesar releases his sophomore album CASE STUDY 01, boasting features from Pharrell, Brandy and John Mayer.

In the world of English-language music, chances are that "new Oasis" means something very different to you than it does to the Spanish-language Internet.

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

It is called the longest race on Earth - 33,000 miles around the globe by yacht. It's grueling. A new documentary called "Maiden" tells the story of the 1989 Whitbread round-the-world race.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MAIDEN")

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.

Kat Edmonson On Mountain Stage

Jun 27, 2019

Kat Edmonson grew up in Houston, Tx. and began honing her songwriting craft and performance chops in Austin. While her music is often fondly compared to classic American Songbook material, she doesn't steer away from the language of modern lovers, like in "Old Fashioned Gal": "The jokes your date was telling/That ensued such LOL-ing."

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.

One morning in 2010, a long-awaited piece of mail arrived at Deanna Martinez Neidlinger's home in Tacoma, Washington. It wasn't a Hogwarts letter, but for her three children – aged three, six and nine years old at the time – it might as well have been delivered by owl. Enclosed was a copy of the charity compilation album Jingle Spells 4, which included "Hogwarts Lullaby," a song that the family wrote and recorded together.

"The kids were able to hear themselves on a real-life CD and everything," Martinez Neidlinger remembers. "My three-year-old played the glockenspiel."

Meeting Ben Dickey is like running into an old friend you haven't seen in a while, but you're thrilled to see them. He was a joy to speak with the roots singer-songwriter while visiting the World Cafe Studio to play songs from his sophomore solo record, A Glimmer On The Outskirts — not just about the album, but also about his potential star-making turn as Blaze Foley in the Ethan Hawke-directed biopic Blaze.

This week on Alt.Latino's Spotify and Apple Music playlists: Orishas returns with a piano ballad for existentialist insomniacs, Chicago's Divino Niño offers a dream-pop ballad and Mateo Kingman teams up with Gustavo Santaolalla.


The Thistle & Shamrock: Singing The Land

Jun 26, 2019

This week's show features music from Karine Polwart's theatrical event Wind Resistance and from fiddler Duncan Chisholm's Sandwood, named for the finest and least accessible beach in Scotland.

Music is multidimensional. Poring over an era's album artwork, music videos, press photos and live shows, you can start to piece together the full story of what it was like to live and breathe that particular moment in music. When it comes to Seattle's heyday of grunge, plenty of images come to mind: flannel, ripped jeans, "thrift store chic."

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

June is LGBTQ pride month, and some of the loudest and proudest people in that community are drag queens. Now, drag queens don't have to be gay, but a lot of them are. NPR's Sam Sanders dug into the past, present and especially future of drag.

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.


There's a certain kind of song you just want to crank up after a bad breakup or a rough day at work. In 1963, a young singer renowned for a hit about getting ditched at a party unleashed just such an anthem.

Best Songs Of 2019 (So Far)

Jun 26, 2019

Lizzo's "Juice" drips so much sauce. Charly Bliss channels existential anxiety into synth-pop catharsis. Mdou Moctor's guitar will set you in a trance. There's no one sound to a year, but public radio writers across the country do set their ears to the most essential music. At the year's midway point, we asked them, as we did with albums: What is your favorite song of 2019 so far?

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