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.

All Songs Considered
5:49 pm
Sun August 31, 2014

The Good Listener: Parents Just Don't Understand?

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince said it themselves: There's no need to argue.
Jive Records YouTube

Originally published on Sun August 31, 2014 5:46 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the gigantic bottle of Marmite we probably shouldn't have ordered on a late-night whim is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on getting your parents into your favorite music.

Erik writes via Facebook: "How do you get your parents to respect the music of today?"

Read more
Monkey See
9:03 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Recycling Franchises And Judging Books By Their Covers

NPR

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 9:08 am

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.

Read more
NPR Story
2:29 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Indie-Pop Albums That Make The Cut Are More Than Mere Collections

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 10:30 am

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.

CORNISH: OK. So...

(LAUGHTER)

Read more
Tiny Desk Concerts
4:53 pm
Sat November 16, 2013

John Legend: Tiny Desk Concert

John Legend performs at the Tiny Desk Concert on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.
Abbey Oldham Abbey Oldham/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 12:28 pm

At 34, John Legend has sold millions of records, won nine Grammys, collaborated with many of the biggest stars in music (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, The Roots, et al), and achieved the kind of statesmanlike musical-ambassador status usually afforded to artists twice his age.

Read more
Monkey See
6:03 am
Fri September 13, 2013

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

NPR

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.

Read more
Monkey See
6:03 am
Fri September 6, 2013

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

NPR

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?

Read more
Monkey See
8:20 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'The Bridge' And The Doctor's Many Faces

NPR

For one more week, our host and pal Linda Holmes has been roaming the desolate plains of Los Angeles at the Television Critics Association press tour, with only catered lunches and lavishly appointed meet-and-greets to provide sustenance.

So the rest of the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang must soldier on in her absence, with the aid of a scrappy young newcomer who'd been waiting for her big break in front of a microphone: All Things Considered co-host Audie Cornish. We predict big things for Audie at NPR!

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
5:14 pm
Sat July 27, 2013

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Hurray For The Riff Raff performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Meagan Beauchemin NPR

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 3:10 pm

The New Orleans band Hurray for the Riff Raff exists as a vehicle for the powerhouse songs of singer-songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra, whose gigantic voice conveys the grit of bluesy soul while still fitting within the realms of rootsy folk and country. The group just followed its dynamite 2012 album Look Out Mama with a Kickstarter-funded collection of covers (and two originals) called My Dearest Darkest Neighbor.

Read more
Monkey See
11:06 am
Fri July 26, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Fan Gatherings And Fall Television

NPR

We recorded this week's episode during the brief interregnum between the end of Glen Weldon's trip to the San Diego Comic Con and the beginning of Linda Holmes' two weeks at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. So it seemed a perfect time to mine the two events for inspiration.

Read more
All Songs Considered
2:29 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

The Good Listener: When You Make Someone A Mix, What Do They Owe You?

Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 8:22 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the shampoo samples we accidentally tossed into the fireplace is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, the etiquette surrounding the giving and receiving of mix CDs.

Read more
All Songs Considered
7:31 am
Sun July 7, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Pick The Songs For Your Wedding?

Don't let a slow, introspective song crash your wedding reception.
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:11 am

Read more
Music
7:52 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Jittery Jams: 10 Songs For Coffee Lovers

Frank Sinatra's "The Coffee Song" makes light of a perceived Brazilian coffee glut.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:46 am

Read more
All Songs Considered
2:50 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Baby Bands, Pop Stars And Room-Filling Joy: What To Expect At SXSW 2013

Twin Horns Of Joy? Members of the band The Bottom Dollars play on the street in Austin, Texas, during the opening night of the South by Southwest music festival.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 7:55 am

Listen to Stephen Thompson's conversation with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered by clicking the audio link.


The South by Southwest music festival kicked off Tuesday with the first of five straight nights of music overload: The clubs, makeshift music venues and front porches of Austin, Texas, were overrun with little-known discoveries-in-waiting and big names alike, as well as tens of thousands of fans who have flocked to the city in search of epiphanies.

Read more
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:

Read more
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

Read more
Monkey See
11:23 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Pop Culture Happy Hour: How Long Is Too Long?

NPR

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"?

Read more
Monkey See
10:48 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Of 'Avengers' And The Other A-List

NPR

Our intrepid host, Linda Holmes, is wrapping up her self-imposed isolation in the mountains of North Carolina, so the rest of the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was forced to soldier on without her for one harrowing episode. And, given that we just did a No Boys Allowed episode two weeks ago, we figured we'd fill the room with dudes — you know, men's men.

Read more
Monkey See
7:03 am
Thu April 26, 2012

For Fans Of The NFL Draft, A Heady Cocktail Of Hope And Sloth

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 8:10 am

Read more
The Salt
4:49 am
Sat February 4, 2012

This One's For The Chicken: A Super Bowl Party With A Purpose

Many will compete, but only one will be crowned Chicken Bowl champion this Sunday.
Photo illustration by NPR Staff

Originally published on Sat February 4, 2012 8:00 am

This Sunday will mark the 16th annual installment of "Chicken Bowl," my Super Bowl party, which doubles as a grand fried-chicken-eating contest. As many as 80 friends, coworkers, enablers and hangers-on will cram into my long-suffering house for this noble occasion.

But even with all the extravagances I've cobbled together to keep them happy — large TVs, vintage arcade machines, working toilets — there has never been a shred of doubt that chicken is king.

Read more
World Cafe
12:30 am
Wed December 28, 2011

Bon Iver On World Cafe

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
D.L. Anderson

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 12:28 pm

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

Read more