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.

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First Listen
8:03 pm
Sun May 18, 2014

First Listen: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, 'Dereconstructed'

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires' new album, Dereconstructed, comes out May 27.
Wes Frazer Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 9:08 am

In north central Alabama, punk rockers often know as much about football as they do mosh pits. A guy with an arm-sleeve tattoo will open the door for a woman and call her "ma'am." Self-identifying as a blue dot in a red state doesn't preclude Sunday brunch with relatives whose own cars boast confederate-flag stickers. Such differences can arise anywhere, but they can feel more pressing in the Deep South, where history is sticky, like a 90-degree rainy day, and intimate, like Grandma's questionable advice.

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The Record
8:39 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Why Tori Amos Connects

Tori Amos on stage in Glasgow, three days before the release of her 14th studio album, Unrepentant Geraldines.
Ross Gilmore Redferns via Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 2:40 pm

When I spent time on tour with Tori Amos a decade ago, collaborating with her on a book, I'd see her invoke the four elements many nights before her band would take the stage.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Song Premiere: Naomi Shelton And The Gospel Queens, 'Sinner'

Jacob Blickenstaff Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 7:18 am

In 1963, Alabama was culturally closer to Brooklyn than it is now. The Great Migration of African-Americans out of the South created enclaves in cities all over the country, and the Civil Rights movement trained the eyes of the North on cities like Birmingham. Alabama native Naomi Shelton came to Brooklyn that year with the gospel in her heart and soul music turning her head. She found a place to sing, a bar on Flatbush Avenue, and a musical partner in keyboardist Cliff Driver. Flatbush Avenue rang out with the sound of her Southern blend of grace and grit.

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The Record
11:42 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Is It Worth It To Work It?

The album cover for Lily Allen's Sheezus goes after multiple targets, including Kanye West (in the album's title) and Queen Elizabeth II (the corgis).
Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
9:07 am
Thu April 17, 2014

God, Drugs And Lizard Aliens: Yep, It's Country Music

Sturgill Simpson's second album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, takes inspiration from both Ray Charles and research into near-death experiences.
Crackerfarm Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 5:51 am

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The Record
7:41 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Why We Fight About Pop Music

Kanye West performing in New York City, 2012
13thWitness Getty Images for Samsung

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 11:03 am

In 2007, the Canadian music critic Carl Wilson published a book-length experiment in extreme aesthetic sport: a sincere and shockingly comprehensive study of music he had already decided he hated. That book, Let's Talk About Love, named for the Celine Dion album it studied, has become a cornerstone text in the school of criticism known as "poptimism," because it treats seemingly disposable pop music as worthy of serious thought.

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The Record
2:34 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Make Peace With Pop: 6 Songs That Prove Pop Gets Along With Everyone

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 3:53 pm

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First Listen
8:03 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

First Listen: EMA, 'The Future's Void'

EMA's new album, The Future's Void, comes out April 8.
Leif Shackelford Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 9:53 am

Erika M. Anderson appreciates the flickering quality of meaning. She likes the sparks that fly off sounds, igniting constructive confusion: the buzz that makes an old synth sound like a guitar, or the way an acoustic beat can crash into an electronic one to make a whole nervous system of rhythm. She's also into wordplay, starting with the name of her ongoing project EMA — an acronym that could stand for a government agency but, read another way, is a feminine name. Then there's the title of her second album, The Future's Void, with its odd, homonym-like instability.

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First Listen
8:03 pm
Sun March 23, 2014

First Listen: Nickel Creek, 'A Dotted Line'

Nickel Creek's new album, A Dotted Line, comes out April 1.
Brantley Gutierrez Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 11:32 am

"I think we're more grown-up now, to use an extremely childlike term," the violinist Sara Watkins recently told a reporter who asked what had changed in the eight years since Nickel Creek — the trio of Watkins, guitarist Sean Watkins (her brother) and mandolinist Chris Thile — released a studio album. Watkins' words astutely acknowledged the expectations leveled at the former child prodigies, who wowed bluegrass and country fans with three precocious albums in the early 2000s.

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The Record
8:39 am
Sat March 15, 2014

Lady Gaga At SXSW: 'Don't Sell Out. Sell In.'

Lady Gaga donned luxurious plastic bags for her SXSW Keynote on Friday.
Michael Buckner Getty

Originally published on Sat March 15, 2014 9:20 am

On Friday, March 14, Lady Gaga gave the keynote at SXSW 2014, a long interview conducted by John Norris that covered her career in pop, from her roots in the rock clubs of downtown New York to her decision to partner with a corporate sponsor for the concert she performed at Stubb's the night before. (You can see the complete video of the interview on this page.)

NPR Music's Ann Powers was in Austin for the keynote, and she filed this report.

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