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 Record
6:33 am
Thu July 3, 2014

The Hits Of Yesterday And Today

Paramore's "Ain't It Fun" was originally released on Paramore in April 2013, but the single hit radio in February and hasn't left since.
Mike Coppola Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 11:48 am

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The Record
9:57 am
Thu June 26, 2014

He'll Be There For You

You've Got A Friend: Ed Sheeran's second album, X, released this week, sets out to prove that the "friend zone" doesn't have to be toxic.
Ben Watts Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 7:36 am

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The Record
1:31 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

A Gentle Buzz At The CMA Music Festival

During the CMA Festival in downtown Nashville, Miranda Lambert (left) welcomed Carrie Underwood for a duet on their hit "Somethin' Bad."
John Russell CMA

American music festivals used to be mostly a summer thing, but in many ways they now frame the concert experience all year round. In these temporary hot spots for pleasure and cultural conversation, new artists emerge as sensations and established ones do special things with fans. Culture watchers note fashion trends and predict whose careers will rise and fall by observing what emerges from festivals' impromptu communities.

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All Songs Considered
5:03 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Miranda Lambert's 'Priscilla,' An Ode To 'Being Queen Of A King'

Miranda Lambert's album, Platinum, comes out on June 3.
Randee St. Nicholas Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 6:56 am

Pop stars are the ideal companions of their fans' daydreams, speaking their most romantic hopes and defiant declarations through the songs on the Top 40. Miranda Lambert, however, is the kind of friend who's not going to take anybody's bull. As country's most lauded million-selling artist, beloved by everyday listeners and critics alike, Lambert has crafted a body of work grounded in the realism of muscle, flesh and heart.

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First Listen
9:03 pm
Sun June 1, 2014

First Listen: Jose James, 'While You Were Sleeping'

Jose James' new album, While You Were Sleeping, comes out June 10.
Janette Beckman Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 10:13 am

When the spirit of Nirvana surfaces in a song, the artist paying tribute almost always shares style points with that treasured band. The hair is shaggy, the clothes a little ragged; the lineage unfolds, relatively neatly, from punk to the present.

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The Record
9:39 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Why Tori Amos Connects

Tori Amos on stage in Glasgow, three days before the release of her 14th studio album, Unrepentant Geraldines.
Ross Gilmore Redferns via Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 3:40 pm

When I spent time on tour with Tori Amos a decade ago, collaborating with her on a book, I'd see her invoke the four elements many nights before her band would take the stage.

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All Songs Considered
9:03 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Song Premiere: Naomi Shelton And The Gospel Queens, 'Sinner'

Jacob Blickenstaff Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:18 am

In 1963, Alabama was culturally closer to Brooklyn than it is now. The Great Migration of African-Americans out of the South created enclaves in cities all over the country, and the Civil Rights movement trained the eyes of the North on cities like Birmingham. Alabama native Naomi Shelton came to Brooklyn that year with the gospel in her heart and soul music turning her head. She found a place to sing, a bar on Flatbush Avenue, and a musical partner in keyboardist Cliff Driver. Flatbush Avenue rang out with the sound of her Southern blend of grace and grit.

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The Record
12:42 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Is It Worth It To Work It?

The album cover for Lily Allen's Sheezus goes after multiple targets, including Kanye West (in the album's title) and Queen Elizabeth II (the corgis).
Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
10:07 am
Thu April 17, 2014

God, Drugs And Lizard Aliens: Yep, It's Country Music

Sturgill Simpson's second album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, takes inspiration from both Ray Charles and research into near-death experiences.
Crackerfarm Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 6:51 am

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The Record
8:41 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Why We Fight About Pop Music

Kanye West performing in New York City, 2012
13thWitness Getty Images for Samsung

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 12:03 pm

In 2007, the Canadian music critic Carl Wilson published a book-length experiment in extreme aesthetic sport: a sincere and shockingly comprehensive study of music he had already decided he hated. That book, Let's Talk About Love, named for the Celine Dion album it studied, has become a cornerstone text in the school of criticism known as "poptimism," because it treats seemingly disposable pop music as worthy of serious thought.

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The Record
3:34 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Make Peace With Pop: 6 Songs That Prove Pop Gets Along With Everyone

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 4:53 pm

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The Record
9:39 am
Sat March 15, 2014

Lady Gaga At SXSW: 'Don't Sell Out. Sell In.'

Lady Gaga donned luxurious plastic bags for her SXSW Keynote on Friday.
Michael Buckner Getty

Originally published on Sat March 15, 2014 10:20 am

On Friday, March 14, Lady Gaga gave the keynote at SXSW 2014, a long interview conducted by John Norris that covered her career in pop, from her roots in the rock clubs of downtown New York to her decision to partner with a corporate sponsor for the concert she performed at Stubb's the night before. (You can see the complete video of the interview on this page.)

NPR Music's Ann Powers was in Austin for the keynote, and she filed this report.

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The Record
9:56 am
Mon March 10, 2014

The Guide To Making SXSW Fun (For Everybody)

Anything can happen in Austin. Be prepared.
Adam Kissick for NPR

The last thing anyone would say about South By Southwest is that it's an avenue for self-improvement. The annual mega gathering, which began last week for film and interactive-technology mavens and turns into a music conference and festival tomorrow, fulfills many needs for the culture nerd. Communal bonding? Yes – somewhere around 100,000 people will wander the Austin streets looking to high-five each other during this time. Fun? For sure.

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The Record
6:03 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Listening In Reel Life: The Pop Music Inside The Oscar Nominees

Beautiful Music Together: Joaquin Phoenix takes a walk on the beach with his girlfriend the Operating System in the Oscar-nominated film Her.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 7:54 am

The most romantic scene from any of this year's Oscar-nominated films begins with a deliciously idiosyncratic pickup line. At a swinger's pool party in 1978, a flabby yet still somehow alluring Christian Bale gently grabs the arm of Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams at her most wide-eyed and guileful. "Is that Duke Ellington on your bracelet?" he murmurs.

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The Record
1:39 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Hearing Devotion In Pop's Details

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs onstage at the Amnesty International Concert presented by the CBGB Festival at Barclays Center on February 5, 2014 in New York City.
Neilson Barnard Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 9:08 am

This week, the rock band Imagine Dragons set a record for the longest run on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart — 77 weeks, since it debuted in August of 2012.

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All Songs Considered
11:06 am
Wed January 1, 2014

The Knife On 'Shaking' Expectations

Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer from Swedish electronic music duo The Knife perform live on stage at Lowlands festival in Biddinghuizen, Netherlands in August.
Paul Bergen Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:43 am

  • Hear The Knife On 'Shaking The Habitual'

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Song Premiere: Christopher Denny, My Morning Jacket's 'Bermuda Highway'

Timothy S. Griffin Courtesy of the artist

Five years ago, a listener looking for a lonesome song anywhere near Arkansas might have heard a voice she still can't forget. Christopher Denny was 23 when he released Age Old Hunger, introducing the world to a high Southern warble that doesn't defy gravity so much as play with the tension that force creates – an androgynous, time-jumping instrument. Denny was learning to control his singing then, a process he says is more about instinct than craft. "I have to say...

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The Record
10:23 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

'90s Nostalgia Revisited: 6 Musicians We Miss

P.M. Dawn, sometime in the '90s.
Mick Hutson Redferns

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 6:11 am

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The Record
11:49 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Fall Pop Preview: A 'Roar' Of 'Applause' For New Music

This week, Lady Gaga (left) released the song "Applause," from her forthcoming album ARTPOP, and Katy Perry released "Roar," from Prism.
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 2:07 pm

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All Songs Considered
2:12 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

First Watch: Nora Jane Struthers, 'Bike Ride'

Courtesy of the artist

For those who haven't yet discovered Nora Jane Struthers, the summery song "Bike Ride" is a great introduction to her beguiling, well-considered worldview. The first time Struthers sings the song's most important line — "I can go anywhere" — the phrase rises up out of her throat, free, wide open. The second time, a phrase later, she clamps down on it with some grit. "'Bike Ride' is a song about a re-awakening," the 29-year-old Nashville resident said in a recent email. "When you propel yourself forward through time and space on your own steam, you realize your own agency."

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All Songs Considered
3:45 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Hear Pearl Jam's New Single, 'Mind Your Manners'

Pearl Jam (from left: Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Matt Cameron) will release its 10th studio album, Lightning Bolt, on October 15.
Danny Clinch Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 4:46 pm

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The Record
3:19 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Country Music's Year Of The Woman

Miranda Lambert performing in April at the Academy of Country Music Awards, where she won best song, best record and best female vocalist for the fourth year in a row. The Lambert Effect has opened doors for many of the new hopefuls blending hard country sounds with feminist-aware attitudes.
Kevin Winter/ACMA2013 Getty Images for ACM

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 4:41 am

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The Record
9:48 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Lessons From SXSW 2013: Take The Middle Road

Natalie Maines (center) at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas during the SXSW Music Festival. Maines's band included her father, Lloyd Maines (seated left) and Ben Harper (seated right).
Mindy Best Getty Images

That guy Prince has a sense of humor.

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The Record
8:41 am
Mon February 4, 2013

The Roots Of Beyonce's Super Bowl Spectacular

Beyonce performs during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday night.
Ezra Shaw Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 10:38 am

One of the Twitter hashtags devised by rabid Beyonce fans before last night's Super Bowl halftime show was religious in nature: #praisebeysus. Praise Beysus! This bit of hyperventilating resonated in interesting ways. Strutting into the very center of America's biggest television spectacle, the 31-year-old superstar intended to secure her place in the musical pantheon next to recent Super Bowl-approved legends Madonna, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and Prince.

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The Record
2:53 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Go See The Old Guys

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 5:22 am

Neil Young made me write this. Before last Thursday, when ol' Shakey and his golden garage band Crazy Horse stomped through my local amphitheater, the last thing I'd thought I'd be excited about was a bunch of guys hovering around 70, playing loud rock and roll into the night.

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The Record
2:20 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

'Nashville' Duets: Voices In Harmony And Conflict

Nashville veteran Deacon (Charles Esten) and upstart country-pop star Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) record a duet in a scene from ABC's Nashville.
Katherine Bomboy-Thornton ABC

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 9:07 am

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The Record
1:19 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

For The Ladies: R. Kelly, Teddy Pendergrass And The State Of R&B

R. Kelly's "Single Ladies" tour, which includes a "Ladies Only" section, began this week and runs into December.
Randee St. Nicholas RCA Records

Originally published on Sat October 20, 2012 1:49 pm

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The Record
2:37 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Why Some Musicians Last

The singer Aaliyah, performing in 1998. Since her death in 2001, many singers have applied her soft, sexy vocal style to R&B, pop and indie hits.
Tim Mosenfelder Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 10:53 am

The mists of eternity wafted over my Twitter feed the other night. Okay, not quite — but talk of eternity, or at least of the pop scene in thirty years, did make for a lengthy and spirited group exchange. It started when a friend who's not fond of singing competitions asked whether Kelly Clarkson will be remembered in 2042.

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