NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  Find more music at WUNC's  Back Porch Music.

Hip-hop took off its cool over the weekend — and lit itself ablaze in the process.

Two seemingly unrelated threads this past weekend served as raucous, yin-and-yang reminders that hip-hop is not just a genre measured by charts, award show accolades and platinum plaques, but an organic culture unbound by industry rules.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame, with some assistance from Nile Rodgers and CBS This Morning, has announced its 2017 inductees, which include a first for the 38-year-old organization: rap.

Jay Z will be the first rapper inducted into the Hall and will be joined this year by one-man Swedish hit factory Max Martin; Motown founder Berry Gordy (who deferred his induction last year); Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of The Time; Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Peter Cetera of Chicago; and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

The 'meaning' of music is an amorphous concept, as are the lessons of psychotropic experiences brought on by substances like lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. Recent scientific studies have attempted to tackle both of these topics and gauge whether ingesting the substance impacted peoples' experiences with and interpretations of music. By request, the poet August Kleinzahler considers two recent studies, through the lens of his own musical and psychedelic dabblings.

Adele broke her Grammy award in half Sunday night. It might have seemed like the careless act of someone with plenty to spare; the 28-year-old powerhouse vocalist has 15 of the music industry's most coveted statues, including the five just presented for her latest album, 25. She did so charmingly, with a characteristic big laugh, and apparently by accident, severing the statue's gramophone horn from its base as she nervously handled it.

Our relationships with and access to music lie between rocks and hard places; the rocks that own it, the hard places that distribute it to us. Those relationships are constantly evolving, and to figure out what might come next, we've combed through the recent earnings statements of some of the largest record labels and tech companies to reveal how they're preparing for 2017 and beyond.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

Feb 8, 2017

Listen to the sounds of musicians making their first appearances on Thistle & Shamrock. Artists featured on the show come from both sides of the Atlantic and include The Katie McNally Trio, Connla, Liza Mulholland and more.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Drake has topped the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI) annual list of best-selling artists worldwide, earning the umbrella group's "Global Recording Artist of the Year" award, buoyed in large part by the success of his 2016 album Views.

David Bowie, who died on January 10, 2016 just two days after the release of Blackstar, came in second on the IFPI's list. Prince, the list's other "legacy" artist, was ninth. The list tabulates all forms of sales, physical and digital, as well as sales from the entire catalog of the artists named.

The band is back together. This Is Spinal Tap's three stars and director have united to sue the movie's owner for $400 million.

"Waiting 4 it," one Lady Gaga fan wrote on her Facebook wall before the Super Bowl halftime show last night. "Gaga, say some s***." The multiplatinum pop rabble-rouser's reputation as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, feminism and general freakery left her with a certain burden of proof as she took on America's biggest annual slice of family entertainment. Would she speak out about the need to preserve civil rights as a new administration already establishing a spotty record on that front reshapes the presidency?

The music website Bandcamp will donate the money it earns from music sales that occur this Friday, Feb. 3, to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The move, which amounts to 15 percent of all dollars spent on bandcamp.com, was announced in a blog post Tuesday afternoon.

Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp's founder, writes:

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Year Sounds

Jan 25, 2017

Prepare your way for the year ahead with a fresh musical start and a chance to discover artists whose careers are destined to gather momentum in the coming months. In this week's episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, hear music from Eileen Ivers, Battlefield Band, John McSherry, Invisible Stars and more.

From the pubs and clubs of home to international festival stages, some great live performances electrify this hour as we turn the page on yet another music-filled year.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

George Michael: A Father Figure For Political Pop

Dec 27, 2016

Return To Daddy

Dec 22, 2016

If there was one moment in Houston on Saturday night that brought meaning and context to Aphex Twin's first U.S. performance in eight years, it was when the storm arrived, about 30 minutes in.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Midwinter Music

Dec 21, 2016

Travel into the magical traditions of midwinter through some spellbinding music of the season. This week, hear music from Phil Cunningham, California Revels and Cherish The Ladies.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Winter Gifts

Dec 15, 2016

Host Fiona Ritchie shares some new releases that may help you resolve your holiday shopping challenges.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Appetite For Dysfunction

Dec 13, 2016

America loves a hot mess. Added by Oxford Dictionaries in August 2014, that phrase connotes "a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered, especially one that is a source of peculiar fascination." The roots of hot mess attraction in popular music go as far back as the blues. We love transmissions from and about our shadow sides — secret pains, forbidden longings, destructive urges kept barely in check. Consider classic rock cyclones like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, who combined exceptional talent and all-too-human emotion.

The Thistle & Shamrock: The Singing Kettle

Dec 7, 2016

As we enter the festive season, many parties, concerts and carol-singing events are geared toward children, for whom this time of year is especially magical. Host Fiona Ritchie reaches back into the archives to remember her visit with children's entertainers Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise, who performed for many years as "The Singing Kettle." Their shows often evoked the playful traditions of pantomime, which are so popular in the U.K. at this time of year.

This week, host Fiona Ritchie and her guests conclude a two-part exploration of the American Folklife Center's extensive sound archive. It features rare recordings from collectors Jean Ritchie and John Matheson.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

A Queen Among Kings

Nov 21, 2016

The first time I ever saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform was circa 2002 at the Elbo Room, a tiny venue in San Francisco's Mission District. If you've ever been there, you know the Elbo Room doesn't need many bodies to pack the floor, and with the Dap-Kings crowding the diminutive stage, the full intensity of their act filled the space from practically the first note. I was already familiar with the group through its early records, but hadn't fully appreciated how much power Jones could pack into her stout, 5-foot frame as she sang, sweated, stamped, strutted, slayed.

Popular music, like every creative form, has produced iconoclasts and idols, whose charisma intersects with the historical moment to carry them into a singular space of greatness. Leonard Cohen was not that kind of star. He was the other kind, arguably more necessary: the companionable genius, compelled by the need to track the muse through the hallways of the everyday, to understand how profane existence can be shot through with profundity.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Fall Sounds

Nov 9, 2016

Join host Fiona Ritchie as she uncovers the latest batch of releases, hearing what's new from established artists and emerging talent. This episode features songs from the new album The Lost Songs of St. Kilda, recorded by Trevor Morrison.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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