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 the podcasts All Songs Considered and Pop Culture Happy Hour. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the weekly 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 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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World Cafe
10:32 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Bon Iver On World Cafe

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
D.L. Anderson

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 1:28 pm

This session, from Sept. 2, 2011, is part of our Vintage Cafe series, in which we revisit some of our best studio performances.

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Monkey See
7:03 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Requested Reboots And 'Duck Dynasty'

NPR
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With intrepid host Linda Holmes trapped in the air-conditioned movie theaters of Toronto, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang was forced to reconstitute itself yet again for this week's episode — this time with our old pal Tanya Ballard Brown, who returns via the power of popular demand. You talk, we listen, people.

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All Songs Considered
12:41 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

The Good Listener: Forget The Grammys — Which Music Awards Matter?

There were many ways to discover Alt-J in 2012, including this site, but the band's Mercury Prize win sure made it easier.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 12:49 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and along with the quilt my kind sister couldn't possibly have made me herself came a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for ideas on music awards that double as useful buyer's guides.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Tue September 10, 2013

The 1975: Tiny Desk Concert

The 1975 performs a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Hayley Bartels Hayley Bartels/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:11 pm

As lead singer of the youthful Manchester band The 1975, Matthew Healy has cranked out a batch of enjoyably wiry songs, most notably the singles "Chocolate" and "Sex" — each of which has attracted more than a million YouTube plays. The group has been bubbling up, here and in the U.K., for the last year or two, as it's toured with Muse and released an album and four EPs full of brash-but-winsome, electronics-tinged pop-rock.

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Monkey See
7:03 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Blue Jasmine' And A Summer Movie Postmortem

NPR
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As summer was giving way to fall, preseason football was giving way to actual football, and Linda Holmes' week was giving way to the Toronto International Film Festival, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang managed to gather just long enough to look back on a divisive summer full of big, loud, robot-on-robot movies. Our own postmortem can't help but skim past other postmortems — was Man of Steel a hit or a flop?

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All Songs Considered
4:04 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

The Good Listener: When Playing Music At Work, Can You Please Everyone?

Can you please keep your Geto Boys down? I'm looking for my stapler.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Sat September 7, 2013 8:23 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the helpful slips from FedEx reminding us that we have to be at home to receive their package even though most people work during the day, for pete's sake is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for ideas for how to play music in the office without irritating people.

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All Songs Considered
10:42 am
Fri August 30, 2013

The Good Listener: Why Would Anyone Keep Buying CDs?

In the video for Superchunk's "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo," music fans hold up copies of their favorite albums — no MP3s included.
Courtesy of Merge Records

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 8:13 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid our next-door neighbor's copy of Soldier of Fortune is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, multiple requests for help deciding when it's time to bail on an outdated music format.

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Newport Folk Festival
1:48 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Sarah Jarosz, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Sarah Jarosz performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Meagan Beauchemin NPR

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 9:47 am

Sarah Jarosz was still in high school when she signed her record deal, and she released her debut album (2009's Song Up In Her Head) shortly thereafter, but the versatile bluegrass star seemed to emerge fully formed. For one thing, the 22-year-old keeps her music sounding warmly pretty — and rooted in accessibly poppy folk — rather than focusing solely on her Grammy-nominated instrumental chops.

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All Songs Considered
1:35 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Wear Headphones In Public?

As Melissa McCarthy's etiquette-minded character in Bridesmaids demonstrates, there's nothing wrong with wearing headphones on an airplane.
Suzanne Hanover Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 5:33 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the monthly bale of sunflower seeds we've decided to order from Amazon Prime via subscription is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for advice on when and where it's courteous to wear headphones in public.

Brian Bowen writes via Facebook: "When is it OK to wear headphones in public — in transit, at work, during events large or small, standing in line at the post office, etc.?"

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Tiny Desk Concerts
6:37 am
Sat August 17, 2013

Mother Falcon: Tiny Desk Concert

Mother Falcon performs a Tiny Desk Concert in July 2013.
Hayley Bartels NPR

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 10:53 am

When it comes to Tiny Desk Concerts, we're suckers for milestones at NPR Music: We're gearing up to acknowledge No. 300, for example, and are constantly taking note of the first time a musician trots out a particular rare instrument or does something else no one has done in front of us before.

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