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
8:03 am
Mon August 3, 2015

Dolly In Nashville: Authenticity That Makes Room For Rhinestones

Dolly Parton on stage at the Ryman Auditorium on July 31, one of two sold out shows that marked her first headlining gigs in Nashville in 12 years.
Rick Diamond Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 3, 2015 1:37 pm

When the renowned radio personality and Grand Ole Opry fixture Bill Cody walked onto the stage at the Ryman Auditorioum to welcome Dolly Parton there for the first time in twelve years, he called her "the most beloved artist of all time." Then he quickly, almost imperceptibly, corrected himself, adding a qualifier: female artist." Who knows what flashed in Cody's mind in that moment — perhaps the face of Johnny Cash, the patron

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The Record
11:41 am
Mon July 27, 2015

Drive By-Truckers To Release Massive Live Album

Greg Chow Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
5:01 pm
Wed July 15, 2015

The Cruel Truth About Rock And Roll

The Runaways (from left, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett, Sandy West, Cherie Currie and Lita Ford) in January 1976.
Michael Ochs Archives Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 16, 2015 3:01 pm

Last week, a story about The Runaways' Jackie Fuchs, centered around her account of being raped by the late music entrepreneur Kim Fowley in a motel room full of people on New Year's Eve in 1975, challenged the very idea that rock and roll is something worth loving.

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The Record
1:56 pm
Tue July 7, 2015

Why Films About Musicians Leave So Much Music Off Screen

Amy Winehouse, in an image taken from the documentary Amy, by director Asif Kapadia.
Courtesy of A24

For anyone more interested in Amy Winehouse's music than in her martyrdom, the most shocking images in Asif Kapadia's new documentary Amy may not be the ones showing her strung out and terrifyingly thin at the end of her short life, nor those capturing her turn into serious addiction in filthy, paraphernalia-strewn rooms she shared with her enabler and eventual husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.

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The Record
3:29 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

12 Essential Archives For Internet-Era Music Historians

Photo illustration: Claire O'Neill/NPR. Photos via NASA and iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 3:52 pm

Where do music historians go to find the sounds that shape the stories they tell? There are some obvious places, like the Library of Congress, whose National Jukebox offers more than ten thousand songs from the dawn of the modern age, or the Internet Archive, which overwhelms with its vast array of material and is especially rich for live recordings.

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The Record
1:32 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Digital Underground

The Internet can be a wonderland of musical discovery and discourse, but it's not built to be a permanent archive.
Photo illustration: Claire O'Neill/NPR. Photos via iStockphoto and Flickr Creative Commons

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 3:53 pm

The music sharing platform imeem thrived from 2004 until its shuttering in 2009 as a safe haven in the wilds of the semi-legal Internet. It was Napster without the piracy, a legal space for music makers and fans to share bedroom composition, videos of their latest dance moves, and the latest streamed — not downloaded — hits.

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The Record
1:41 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Rickie Lee Jones Embraces 'The Big Invisible'

Rickie Lee Jones' new album, The Other Side of Desire, will be out on June 23.
David McClister Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 4:46 pm

Rickie Lee Jones needs no introduction. Seriously. The singer-songwriter is so elementally articulate, so gifted at grasping both the rawest and the most complicatedly cooked emotions in her compositions, that critical framing best comes after the experience of listening to her.

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The Record
2:36 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Shakey Graves, Lucinda Williams And Sturgill Simpson Lead Americana Awards Nominees

Shakey Graves performs at the Americana Music Association Showcase at Gatsby's during SXSW 2014 in Austin, TX.
Erika Goldring Courtesy of the artist

The nominees for the 2015 Americana Honors and Awards were announced today at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. This year's slate shows how the definition of Americana is gently expanding to include more generationally, racially and stylistically diverse stars, while remaining grounded in its country-leaning, singer-songwriter-dominated definition of roots music.

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The Record
1:23 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

How To Be Alone: Musicians Confront Solitude

Sufjan Stevens' album Carrie & Lowell is out this week.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 1:15 pm

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The Record
8:03 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Benjamin Booker Faces The Past

David Goldman Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
10:21 am
Sat February 28, 2015

Sympathy For The Devils

Josh Tillman's latest album as Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear, is a sincere and shocking catalog of the main character's adventures in sex and love.
Emma Tillman Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat February 28, 2015 4:17 pm

It's been five years since Kanye West raised his glass to "the a--holes" in the song "Runaway," a poetic taxonomy of bad behavior that formed the emotional center of his masterwork My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's a sad song about romantic failure, but also a strong statement connecting West to popular music's longstanding practice of being dangerously outrageous.

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The Record
12:53 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

From The Isleys To Aaliyah To Frank Ocean, The Evolution Of 'Love'

Frank Ocean released an Aaliyah tribute, "At Your Best (You Are Love)," on the late R&B singer's birthday.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 11:44 am

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The Record
10:59 am
Thu January 15, 2015

How One Of Gospel's Essential Songs Gave 'Selma' Its Soul

David Oyelowo (left) as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King in Selma.
Atsushi Nishijima Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 8:10 am

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The Record
2:41 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Musicians You'll Tell Your Friends About In 2015

Austin-based Charlie Belle, led by 16-year-old Jendayi Bonds (center) along with her brother Gyasi Bonds (left) and Zoe Czarnecki, will release a debut EP on Jan. 13.
Barclay Ice & Coal Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
11:43 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Listen To 'The Eye,' A New Song By Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile's fifth studio album, The Firewatcher's Daughter, will be out on March 3.
David McClister Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 11:59 am

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The Record
10:46 am
Fri December 12, 2014

In 2014, Pop Followed Beyonce's Lead

Beyonce's performance during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards in August included clips of a speech about feminism by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Kevin Winter/MTV1415 Getty Images for MTV

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 7:28 pm

2014 was a divisive time in popular music, with no single album or song seeming to capture the year's mood and no trend pointing clearly toward the future. But most music lovers could agree on one thing: Beyoncé was flawless. The 33-year-old powerhouse set every standard by which pop music and celebrity are judged.

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The Record
2:19 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

The Political Folk Song Of The Year

Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff.
Joshua Shoemaker Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 10:52 am

When Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff wrote the song "The Body Electric," she knew it would make its way into the world, and hoped its effects would be palpable. Horrified by the rapes that have made tragic news from India to America's college campuses, the singer-songwriter noticed that her own people — music makers and music lovers — would regularly sing along with choruses about killing women, comfortably accepting gender-based violence as part of the ballad tradition.

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The Record
3:43 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Paramore Feat. Joy Williams, 'Hate To See Your Heart Break'

Hayley Williams (left) of Paramore and Joy Williams, formerly of The Civil Wars, perform together on a version of the song "Hate To See Your Heart Break" from the deluxe version of Paramore's self-titled album.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on

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The Record
1:14 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Songs We Love: Nora Jane Struthers, 'The Same Road'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 12:32 pm

Nora Jane Struthers is guided by fire. Coming up within the tradition-minded bluegrass world, she spent her youth in a family band with her father, a good daughter learning tradition. But since she's been leading her own band, the Party Line, Struthers has poured more and more emotion into her songwriting, coming up with some of the most quietly powerful narratives within the new wave of Americana artists.

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The Record
1:04 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

TV On The Radio And The Paradox Of The Midcareer Band

TV On The Radio's new album, its fifth, is titled Seeds.
JUCO Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 5:02 pm

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All Songs Considered
11:11 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Songs We Love: Houndmouth, 'For No One'

Tyler Zoller Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 12:37 pm

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The Record
3:03 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

The Many New Voices Of Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has called her fifth album, 1989, her "very first documented, official pop album."
Courtesy of Big Machine Records

Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 7:27 pm

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The Record
4:33 am
Wed October 22, 2014

Are These The Next Crossover Country Stars?

Sam Hunt has written hits for both Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban. His debut album, Montevallo, is out on Oct. 27.
Chase Lauer Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 8:41 am

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The Record
10:03 am
Thu October 16, 2014

Hear Two Songs From Duncan Sheik's Next Album

Duncan Sheik's seventh album, Legerdemain, will come out in 2015.
Shervin Lainez Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 12:15 pm

In April 2015, Duncan Sheik, a songwriter who has had hits on both pop radio and the Broadway stage, will release Legerdemain, his first album of original material since 2009's Whisper House and the first not connected to a theater piece since 2006's White Limousine. Sheik crafted the album in his Garrison, N.Y. studio, and he's sharing two songs from that album via NPR Music; you can listen and download both of them below.

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The Record
11:42 am
Wed October 8, 2014

The Dream Of Ridiculous Men

The music on U2's new album, Songs of Innocence, reaches back toward the moment when the band was first building an audience.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 12:54 pm

The last short story Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote is about being seriously ridiculous. In "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man," an intellectual prone to existentialist despair is saved from suicide when, in a vision, he discovers a parallel planet where humanity has never sinned. "It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling," he tells the reader. This contact with Eden reinvigorates him, but then, during a playful moment, he teaches the planet's innocents how to deceive each other — and this leads to a catastrophic, Biblical fall.

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The Record
11:17 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Roots, Plugged In

Jonah Tolchin performs at Grimey's in Nashville during the Americana Music Festival on Sept. 20.
Erika Goldring Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 11:10 am

When I put Jonah Tolchin's performance at Third Man Records on my schedule for Americana Fest, the annual gathering of roots-minded musicians that took over Nashville last week, I thought I was going to see a young artist playing old-timey music. Earlier this year, the 22-year-old New Jerseyite released an album, Clover Lane, that gently ranges from countryish ballads to uptempo numbers with a country blues feel.

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The Record
9:00 am
Thu September 11, 2014

An Emerging Voice Of Americana (And Oklahoma)

Samantha Lamb Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 1:50 pm

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The Record
12:23 am
Fri September 13, 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 8:11 am

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The Record
5:19 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 6:41 am

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