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, 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.


Monkey See
6:34 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Small Batch Edition: Remembering Stan Freberg

Satirist Stan Freberg, right, and his wife, Hunter.
Matt Sayles AP

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 12:06 pm

Stan Freberg, who died Tuesday at 88, was a pioneer in music, comedy and advertising. His resume is peppered with firsts and lasts: He was the last radio-only network variety-show host, the first pop-music satirist (Spike Jones had made song parodies, but Freberg's works commented on the performance styles and the culture surrounding them), and a visionary in the art of incorporating humor into TV and radio commercials.

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All Songs Considered
4:29 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

The Good Listener: How Can I Experience SXSW Without Actually Going?

Even if you're missing SXSW, lots of people are taking pictures of it for you.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 10:45 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside laminates containing SXSW's most coveted VIP party passes, all of which are set to arrive the day after we leave for Austin, is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on SXSW envy.

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12:48 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

The Austin 100: A SXSW 2015 Mix

Emma-Lee Moss, a.k.a. Emmy The Great.
Joseph Okpako Redferns via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 10:58 pm

There's a lot of music on this page — 100 songs, to be exact, each from an artist worth discovering at this year's SXSW Music Festival. It represents more than six genre-defying hours of music.

Still, we started out with far more to choose from. It took an enormous amount of effort to get here: Thousands of acts play SXSW each year, enough that winnowing them down to 100 required months of seeking, listening, culling and decision-making. What remains are some of SXSW 2015's most thrilling discoveries and highlights.

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All Songs Considered
12:16 am
Mon February 16, 2015

The Good Listener: Is It OK To Attend A Concert On A First Date?

Jeez, people. The guy with the acoustic guitar is trying to perform right behind you. Get a room, would you?

Originally published on Sat February 14, 2015 7:03 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the boxes of chocolate we bought ourselves to eat alone in the dark on Valentine's Day is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on the collision of concert etiquette and first-date etiquette.

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All Songs Considered
1:20 pm
Sat February 7, 2015

The Good Listener: How Can I Avoid Love Songs?

When it seems like every song on earth is about love or its absence, the heartsick need a strategy.

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 7:03 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the pheromone-laced collars we ordered in the hopes that our cats will stop acting like jerks is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on how the heartsick can avoid songs about love, sex and desire.

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All Songs Considered
1:20 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

The Good Listener: If You Don't Like Music, Do You Have A Soul?

Music isn't for everyone.
Cristian Casanelles iStockphoto

Originally published on Sat January 24, 2015 7:03 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the tiara we ordered as the grand prize at our upcoming eating contest is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on people who simply don't enjoy music.

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All Songs Considered
4:59 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Playing SXSW 2015? Send Us Your Songs

Ana Tijoux was a big part of NPR Music's SXSW 2014 coverage. Now, we're preparing for this year's festival.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 12:10 pm

Every year around this time, many of us on the All Songs Considered team — including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me — each dredge through nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of bands, hundreds slip past our radar altogether.

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First Listen
9:18 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

First Listen: The Lone Bellow, 'Then Came The Morning'

The Lone Bellow's new album, Then Came The Morning, comes out Jan. 27.
Steven Sebring Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 11:09 am

The Lone Bellow isn't the first modern band to traffic in grandiose folk-rock uplift, but it's already among the best.

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5:12 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Thievery Corporation: All Things Considered's In-House Band For A Day

All Things Considered director Monika Evstatieva offers a little last-minute advice to the day's in-house band, Thievery Corporation.
Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 5:32 pm

If you listen to NPR's newsmagazines, short bits of instrumental music often provide the connective tissue linking one story to the next. We call them buttons or breaks or deadrolls, and each is chosen by the show's director that day. Sometimes the selections make a sly reference to the story they follow — say, a snippet of "Baby Elephant Walk" after a story about elephants — but more often they're there to capture, enhance or brighten the mood while helping the listener differentiate between news pieces.

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Monkey See
2:44 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

'Archer' And The Loud Comfort Of Rhythm

Sterling Archer (voice of H. Jon Benjamin) and Lana Kane (voice of Aisha Tyler) rarely look quite this uncomplicatedly happy.

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 2:35 pm

[This piece assumes you've seen the first five seasons of Archer, which contain quite the pileup of plot developments, so: beware.]

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