Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he curates Song of the Day, 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, Weekend All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the only 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 forthcoming anthology 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 Frogger machine. 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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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Fri February 22, 2013

The Good Listener: Do I Come To SXSW If I Don't Have A Badge Or A Billion Dollars?

Whether you buy a $795 badge or show up with a little spare cash on hand, SXSW has something for you — and will expect you to stand in line at some point.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 6:06 am

[This story originally ran on Feb. 22, 2013, but still applies today.]

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Valentine's Day cards that got returned with no forwarding address is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how music fans could and should approach SXSW, the gigantic music festival held every March in Austin, Texas.

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All Songs Considered
11:08 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Playing SXSW? Send Us Your Song

This member of Middle Brother had someone send an MP3 to All Songs Considered a couple years back, and now look at him: He's on the NPR Music website again.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 4:08 pm

Every year around this time, all four members of the All Songs Considered roundtable gang (Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me) each dredge through more than 1,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. We base our coverage and festival schedules on the music we've researched in advance — and have found some of our favorite artists, like Kishi Bashi in 2012, as part of these blind pre-fest taste tests — and this year, we want to be sure we're considering yours.

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All Songs Considered
9:20 am
Thu February 14, 2013

It's Valentine's Day, So Here's A Gorgeous Love Song By Rhye

Rhye's debut album, Woman, comes out March 5.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 11:25 am

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All Songs Considered
5:03 am
Thu February 14, 2013

We Get Mail: Music To Help You Ignore Valentine's Day Altogether

Sometimes our hearts are neither broken nor bright on Valentine's Day. The indifferent need a soundtrack, too!
erin m via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:19 pm

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All Songs Considered
1:54 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Song Premiere: Take A 'Tofutti' Break With A Wonderful Oddball

The Heligoats.
Courtesy of the artist

In concerts, The Heligoats' Chris Otepka spends a good deal of time explaining his songs, often introducing them with strange, funny, byzantine stories that somehow serve as functional explanations for the words he's about to sing.

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Monkey See
1:49 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Play-By-Play: Read Along With The Grammy Awards

Taylor Swift gives the opening performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday in Los Angeles.
Christopher Polk Getty Images for NARAS

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 11:11 pm

With the conclusion of Sunday night's ceremony, Linda Holmes and I have now live-blogged fully one-eleventh of the Grammy Awards' 55 annual incarnations. Below is our original post and an archived live blog of the telecast:

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All Songs Considered
10:41 am
Thu February 7, 2013

We Get Mail: Why Do We Need Breakup Songs? Aren't We Suffering Enough?

Do breakup songs just make everything worse?
Marat Sirotyukov iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:20 pm

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All Songs Considered
11:03 am
Thu January 31, 2013

We Get Mail: As Valentine's Day Approaches, Do We Still Need Mixtapes?

In an age of digital files, does handpicking and handing someone a music mix still matter?
Leah Tihia via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:23 pm

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All Songs Considered
1:11 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

We Get Mail: When You Hear Music, Are You Really Listening?

Anna Bryukhanova iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:24 pm

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All Songs Considered
2:19 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

We Get Mail: Loved My Millions, Hated By You — What To Do?

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:24 pm

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All Songs Considered
7:08 am
Thu January 10, 2013

We Get Mail: A Father-Daughter Wedding Dance That Won't Make Everyone Gag

How do you pick a song for a father and daughter's wedding dance without spiraling into sappiness?
Lindsay Pierce via carolynhack/Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:25 pm

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Music
1:22 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

Another Year, Another 'Christmas With The Chipmunks'

The Chipmunks, left to right: Simon, Theodore, Alvin.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 4:37 pm

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All Songs Considered
9:08 am
Thu December 13, 2012

We Get Mail: Learning To Love Music You Don't Know

Virtually every genre of music yields enough new material to overwhelm even the most dedicated listener.
Lars Gotrich NPR

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:26 pm

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All Songs Considered
9:32 am
Wed November 21, 2012

We Get Mail: How Much Music Is Too Much Music?

With so much new music, who has time to listen to this? And with all this old music, who has time to listen to the new stuff?
passetti via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:29 pm

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All Songs Considered
9:49 am
Wed November 14, 2012

We Get Mail: What To Enjoy And How To Enjoy It

Don't dare besmirch the good name of Carly Rae Jepsen.
Vanessa Heins Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:30 pm

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All Songs Considered
4:01 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Song Premiere: Ra Ra Riot, 'Beta Love'

Ra Ra Riot.
Shervin Lainez Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 8:46 am

Ra Ra Riot has experienced constant change in its six-year existence, from commercial success and an aborted label deal to the 2007 death of drummer John Pike. But the band's sound has never shifted as radically as it does on its new album, Beta Love, which comes out Jan. 22. With the departure of cellist Alexandra Lawn — there's that constant change again — Ra Ra Riot shifts gears once more, dialing down the string arrangements in favor of a more synth-driven sound.

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All Songs Considered
11:35 am
Wed November 7, 2012

We Get Mail: How To Make A Mixtape Without Looking Like A Creeper

Artwork for Every Breathe You Take: The Singles by The Police.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:32 pm

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Song Premiere: Haley Bonar, 'Bad Reputation'

Haley Bonar.
Courtesy of the artist

Haley Bonar has been crafting gorgeous, stately pop and wounded ballads for more than a decade now, and her fans still often find themselves explaining, "It's pronounced Bonner." At this point, Bonar deserves to have people pronounce her name correctly and then some, because she's a remarkable performer, with a terrific ear for detail and a gift for masking melancholy observations with hooks that stick.

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All Songs Considered
9:46 am
Fri October 26, 2012

Song Premiere: Neighbors, 'New Century'

Neighbors.
Courtesy of the artist

There's something strangely hypnotic and charming about "New Century," an immensely infectious bummer from Neighbors, which consists of a guy named Noah Stitelman and anyone else who happens to be around to help. For all of Stitelman's fretful miserablism — "I wanna lie down and hide in the dark 'til I don't have to figure it out," he sings early on — Neighbors' music is steeped in smoothly pleasing brightness. If anyone out there remembers the D.C.

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All Songs Considered
3:00 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Song Premiere: Laura Gibson, 'The Carob Trees'

Courtesy of the artist

It's been fascinating to watch the creative development of Laura Gibson, the singer-songwriter who, among other things, inspired NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts series.

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All Songs Considered Blog
3:23 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

First Watch: J.Viewz, 'About The Sea'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 2:35 pm

Brooklyn-based electronic-music producer Jonathan Dagan, a.k.a. J.Viewz, writes songs that whirl and clatter like tiny Rube Goldberg devices. So it's only reasonable that his videos might function the same way. Witness "About the Sea," in which small green squares reveal a series of patterns before giving way to gorgeous animated nature scenes.

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All Songs Considered Blog
1:10 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Randy Newman Returns To Scathing Satire In 'I'm Dreaming'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 6:17 pm

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Monkey See
11:23 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Pop Culture Happy Hour: How Long Is Too Long?

NPR
  • Listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour

Half of the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew is scattered to the four winds — if, by "the four winds," you mean "an assortment of movie theaters in Toronto" — but before parting ways, the old gang met up to discuss a question that's been vexing me. What are the tipping points, I vex, that push various forms of entertainment over the line between "long enough" and "too long"?

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