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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 All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the weekly NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the 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, his girlfriend, their four cats 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.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside a $23.95 book of cat cartoons by The Jesus Lizard's David Yow is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when and whether once-successful musicians should give up. Dan writes via email: "I read somewhere that there's a ' Bang Your Head Tour ' with Quiet Riot and a bunch of other hair-metal bands from the '80s. [Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow and founding guitarist Randy...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside that one CD which appears to have been pulverized by a steamroller is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what transforms a mere hit single into the agreed-upon song of the summer. Kemper writes via Facebook: "When do we know what the song of summer will be? Have we already heard this year's song? If not, when do we typically start to hear it? Why do the other seasons lack...

Sinead O'Connor 's nearly 30-year career forms a portrait of an artist in conflict; a brilliant singer who remains musically, politically and personally uncompromising after forays into folk, pop, standards, reggae and points beyond. By definition, her catalog is erratic, but it's consistently bold and surprising. On August 12, O'Connor will release a new album of original material titled I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss . Its first single, "Take Me to Church," looks back on a lifetime of...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the large wooden crates housing our new summer interns is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what makes some albums seem padded and inconsistent. Miggy Pascual writes via email: "On a recent Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, you described Daft Punk's Random Access Memories as having 'a ton of filler.' I cringed at that moment, mostly because of the word ...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside Bob Boilen's 64-ounce tub of Kirkland-brand gong polish is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what separates a mere hit from an invasive irritant. Chris Kiraly writes via Facebook: "When (if ever) does a song earn the distinction of being 'overplayed'?" Chris posed this question a few months ago, before Pharrell's " Happy " crossed this invisible but obvious...

With Glen Weldon tweeting from the various paradises of Barcelona, this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour calls on the services of two familiar Code Switch pals — Kat Chow and Gene Demby — to discuss the eternal recycling of unlikely pop-culture franchises. We use the July return of Sailor Moon as an excuse to talk about everything from Girl Meets World to Hocus Pocus , George of the Jungle , Newsies , Transformers and more. Then...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the six-pack of Hanson-branded beer that cost $25 to ship is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on disposing of music in a digital age. Tami Anderson writes via Facebook: "How long do you keep songs in your collection when you rarely/never seem to listen to them?" First of all, I can more than relate to the problem you're touching on here: I haven't been able to...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the bag of caramel-filled chocolates we're neglecting to share with our colleagues is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when hardcore fans hate their favorite artist's new project. William F. writes via Facebook: "What do you do if you're a diehard fan of a musician and his new release turns out to be... not very good? How do you deal with the other fans who are falling all...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRP6egIEABk We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the flyer for a maid service that disappeared into a massive pile of papers is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when to deviate from traditional wedding-reception music. Sarah Butcher writes via Facebook: "At our recent wedding, my husband and I tried very hard to take all of your music advice . But we still somehow ended up having...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the Pokemon games we purchased for our kids even though they're entirely indistinguishable from the other Pokemon games we've purchased for our kids is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what it means (and whether it's even possible) to sell out as a musician. Kendra Williams writes via Facebook: Are we as music listeners too harsh when we refer to bands/artists as "sellouts"...

At SXSW this year, I found myself wondering whether Banks was even a real person: Every time I tried to catch one of her shows, the venue was filled to capacity, with no hope of ingress. My curiosity had been piqued by a string of intriguing singles and remixes, each of which showcased a nifty juxtaposition of coolly expressive vocals and forbidding but beautiful electronics. But I left empty-handed, forced to file her name away for later exploration. On Sept. 9, Banks will finally release...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the two quart-size tubs of barbecue sauce is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on recording and trading live shows for our private enjoyment. Wesley Warren writes via Facebook: I have a question about trading (not buying or selling) audio recordings of concerts — sometimes from a handheld mic, sometimes directly from the soundboard. Is it good for music and/or bands, or does it...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the postage-paid crates we'll use to ship home the spring interns is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on cassette tapes and their utility in 2014. Jennifer Spuehler writes via Facebook: "Will there be a place for cassette tapes in the future? What should I do with cassette tapes — especially those beloved mixtapes — that don't have a place to live anymore? First, it...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the fliers for yard-cleaning services that know a big job when they see one are a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on ways to drop musical knowledge without seeming obnoxious. Mvelase Peppetta writes via Facebook: "How do you point out to the children that this 'great' piece of music they're loving right now is actually a cover of something else (most times better) without sounding...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT_nvWreIhg We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the Peabody Award that was supposed to be delivered to Michele Norris is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on whether anthems need to span generations. Cristina Sierra writes via Facebook: "I was thinking about anthems and wondering if ' Counting Stars ' [by OneRepublic] makes a good anthem for the young. Then I got to wondering, are...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the hundreds of water bottles we were supposed to give away at SXSW is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when a person can rightly be considered too old to attend music festivals. Erin Briskie writes via email: "I just caught myself Googling 'how old is too old to go to music festivals.' We all know the answer is 'never too old,' but is there an age range where you start feeling...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Beck single that keeps tricking us into thinking it's the new Beck album are a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when superfans sever their allegiances. Kirsten Elbourne Mathieson writes via Facebook: "How do I deal with the guilt of having virtually abandoned some of my once-favorite artists — who continue to release albums — for cooler current ones? How long can you be a...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Fun-Dip valentine cards we ordered strictly for the Fun-Dip is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, just in time for Valentine's Day, thoughts on platonic mixtapes. Stephanie Marten-Ellis writes via Facebook: "How do you share good music with someone without giving the impression that you're 'trying to say something'? You just like the song and want someone to know about it! Can you...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Bachelor Bouquets we ordered ourselves in order to appear loved is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on music to play at a dance for nervous, flirtatious teenagers. Nanna writes via Facebook: "This Valentine's Day, I will attend a formal thrown for freshman and sophomore college students in the Netherlands — they are giving us, the lecturers, free drinks, so how could I not? —...

Every year around this time, the All Songs Considered team begins the process of listening to nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. We acquire them from any number of sources, as bands willing to circulate their songs for consideration make them available online. But every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of bands, hundreds slip past our radar altogether. So here's where we submit a humble request: If you're...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1b8AhIsSYQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NTDHjVKQyo We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the glittering tiara we intend to give out at our Super Bowl party is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on how and why we hate our least favorite songs. Alex writes via email: "OK, Mr. Good Listener, have at it: What's the worst song of all time? It's 'We Built This City,' right?" ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6EvO_dExO4 We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the deluxe coffee-table book about The Jesus Lizard that we can't believe exists is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how to catch up on a veteran artist whose music is new to you. Bradd Jenkins writes via email: "Sometimes when I'm at a concert or a festival, I find myself listening to the opener and very much...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWNaR-rxAic http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8LIRtPnuA8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg00YEETFzg We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the periodic reminders that our next two months will be spent ignoring loved ones in favor of South by Southwest preparation is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how and why songs last. Rachel Freeman writes via Facebook: "Is there a difference between a song ...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid a deluxe version of the Ashley Monroe record in which "deluxe" means "packed in a 10-pound wooden crate" is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how and whether to enjoy music by folks whose real-life actions offend us. Patrick writes via email: "Your recent column got me thinking about something that happened to me over the summer, when I had the chance to meet one of my favorite musicians....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ8xqyoZXCc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unNa-9qGkfI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld81Y6Em3NM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6yfFWvoygY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO2gm29rI7E http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4dZbJHT7_4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY8SPy_qB2M http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1L5zJ2afLs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J7DbO56QOI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFnA-8H-5lo The same caveats apply to every individual writer's year-end Top 10...

Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: At NPR Music, they're wrapping up the year the best way they know how, with their hotly contested list of their 50 favorite albums of 2013. Now, all this week, we'll get a peak of that list from our in-house experts, including NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson, whose beat is the ever amorphous indie pop, which - Stephen, what exactly is that these days? STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: I have absolutely no idea. It used to mean accessible but unpopular....

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the holiday gift baskets from which our interns will receive their only sustenance is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how to meet your favorite musicians without feeling like a complete stooge. Helen Okolicsanyi writes via Facebook: "How can you not be awkward when you get a chance to meet your favorite musician in person? I never know what to say besides 'Love your music' without sounding...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the whale-sedatives we ordered to help us endure the Green Bay Packers' losing streak is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how to handle the desire to take a break from music. Casey Smith writes via email: "Sometimes, I just want to take a break from it all: stop buying all the records, stop making all the playlists, stop going to all the shows, stop constantly hunting down new music and new...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeXjBWN8LO8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViwtNLUqkMY We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the detergent sampler that broke and spewed suds all over our mortgage bill is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, what makes a successful solo album. Rick Simineo writes via Facebook: "Can you talk us through the right and wrong way of doing a solo album after time in a band, along with some examples of each...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the 500 pounds of generic Circus Peanuts we intend to melt down for home insulation is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for a unifying theory of concert length. Meaghan Agnew writes via email: "How long do you think a set should be for a headlining band on tour? And should a band always play its 'hits' at a live show? I go to a decent amount of shows, and lately have been...

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