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.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
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 2:28 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.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 am
Sun November 3, 2013

Ashley Monroe: Tiny Desk Concert

Ashley Monroe performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in September 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:54 pm

In the last few years, Ashley Monroe has cobbled together an impressive country-music pedigree by working alongside both upstarts (Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) and longtime Nashville veterans (Vince Gill produced Monroe's solo album Like a Rose), and even collaborating with Jack White every now

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Daughter: Tiny Desk Concert

Daughter performs a Tiny Desk Concert in August 2013.
Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:04 pm

Daughter first popped up on our radar when we heard the London band's song "Landfill" while preparing for SXSW early last year: Achingly pretty and melancholy, the track builds to an absolute gut-punch of a line — "I want you so much, but I hate your guts" — that conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility.

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All Songs Considered
1:51 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do I Name My Band, Anyway?

Hoobastank has sold more than 10 million albums. Does it really matter what you call your band?
Courtesy of the artist

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the new Pokemon 3DS games that have zombified our once-expressive children is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, tips on how to name one's band.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:00 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Shovels & Rope: Tiny Desk Concert

Shovels and Rope plays a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:10 pm

Shovels & Rope's presence in the NPR Music offices attracted plenty of interest; many in attendance had long since fallen in love with the husband-and-wife duo's mix of rowdy folk-rock and rootsy balladeering.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Tue September 10, 2013

The 1975: Tiny Desk Concert

The 1975 performs a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Hayley Bartels Hayley Bartels/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:11 pm

As lead singer of the youthful Manchester band The 1975, Matthew Healy has cranked out a batch of enjoyably wiry songs, most notably the singles "Chocolate" and "Sex" — each of which has attracted more than a million YouTube plays. The group has been bubbling up, here and in the U.K., for the last year or two, as it's toured with Muse and released an album and four EPs full of brash-but-winsome, electronics-tinged pop-rock.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:37 am
Sat August 17, 2013

Mother Falcon: Tiny Desk Concert

Mother Falcon performs a Tiny Desk Concert in July 2013.
Hayley Bartels NPR

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 11:53 am

When it comes to Tiny Desk Concerts, we're suckers for milestones at NPR Music: We're gearing up to acknowledge No. 300, for example, and are constantly taking note of the first time a musician trots out a particular rare instrument or does something else no one has done in front of us before.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Alpine: Tiny Desk Concert

Alpine performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:17 pm

Alpine's music doesn't instantly present itself as Tiny Desk material: The Australian sextet crafts busily impeccable pop music with a danceable sway, prominent synths and the charming shared lead vocals of Phoebe Baker and Lou James. That's a lot of ingredients to strip down to a semi-acoustic set in the NPR Music offices; there's virtually no margin for error.

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All Songs Considered
2:17 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Break Into Music Journalism?

The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Sat August 10, 2013 9:12 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the heavily taped packages that can't be opened without the aid of a utility knife and a blowtorch is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: an array of tips for anyone hoping to launch and sustain a career in music journalism.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Dana Falconberry: Tiny Desk Concert

Dana Falconberry performs a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR Music in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2013.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:19 pm

Dana Falconberry's songs are gentle, almost invariably delicate, sometimes mysterious and frequently feather-light. But her music's sweet, intricate softness never stands in for strength: This is a confident songwriter, whether she's ambling through six- and seven-minute epics ("Leelanau," "Dolomite") or chirping sweetly in the bouncy "Crooked River."

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