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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All Songs TV
8:03 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Andrew Combs, 'Nothing To Lose'

Andrew Combs.
Courtesy of the artist

For any young artist, an important leap happens when influences are absorbed and the act of mining the past transforms into something personal. That's what happens on All These Dreams, the second album from the singer-songwriter Andrew Combs, to be released in the U.S. in early March.

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The Record
1:11 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Bjork's 'Vulnicura': An Inquiry Into Melodrama

Bjork.
Courtesy of Sacks and Co.

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 7:35 pm

What the Icelandic art star Bjork has accomplished at the intersection of pop and the avant-garde cannot be summed up in one detail, but one thing to focus on is the way she sings the word "emotional." Climbing it like one of the cliffs she often evokes in her pastoral lyrics, she lets it open up like a vista on its central, circulatory "o." The word becomes a Valkyrie's cry, a statement of purpose both sacred and humanly thrilling.

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Songs We Love
2:49 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

The Deslondes, 'Fought The Blues And Won'

Sam Doores (right) and the rest of his new band, the Deslondes.
Courtesy of the artist

What does it mean to be a wandering troubadour in 2014? Believe it or not, sometimes it means riding the rails, just like in the old days. Sam Doores spent a restless childhood traveling with his family between San Francisco, Washington and Texas; his mother's copy of Woody Guthrie's book Bound For Glory convinced him to try the life of a modern-day hobo, eventually settling in New Orleans. The sound he's cultivated with his bandmates in The Deslondes is streaked with history's dust.

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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 Thu January 15, 2015 12:11 pm

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Songs We Love
10:26 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, 'Whenever You See Me'

The sibling trio Kitty, Daisy & Lewis.
Dean Chalkley Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 11:04 am

When Daisy Durham tells the skirt-chaser in her path to "Think about where you put that hand" in this tough-spirited, joyfully punchy musical kiss-off, she has a girl gang's worth of rock 'n' roll predecessors to back her up. Daisy's on-the-corner vocals, doubled by her sister Kitty, recall outer-borough demolition dolls like the Shangri-La's, the Bobbettes and the Angels.

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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 Tue December 16, 2014 12:45 pm

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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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First Listen
11:06 pm
Sun November 30, 2014

First Listen: 'When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936'

African-Americans on their way to church.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 10:43 am

In the history of American popular music, gospel is the great conveyor. People could hear it everywhere as the 20th century grew from infancy to adolescence: in churches, of course, but also on street corners, sung by wanderers whose guitar work and moaning vocals arose in dialogue with the blues; in factories and mines, where harmonizing quartets provided balm to frustrated workers; on the radio, where preachers and singers performed live to thousands of listeners; and through the new medium of recordings, which turned regional styles into national trends.

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All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Lead Belly, 'I'm So Glad, I Done Got Over'

Portrait in New York, in Lead Belly's final days, 1948-49
Dr Richard S. Blacher

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 3:22 pm

In the new, comprehensive boxed set Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, to be released in Feb. 24, 2015, the Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place reminds readers of the huge historical chunk of American music that the legendary singer and songwriter carried forward via his 12-string Stella guitar. "Lead Belly is often spoken of as the 'discovery' of folklorists, but in many ways he was a walking and singing collector of American folk songs in his own right," Place writes.

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The Record
3:36 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
1:12 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Nora Jane Struthers, 'The Same Road'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 1:20 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

Houndmouth, 'For No One'

Tyler Zoller Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 11:20 am

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Songs We Love
1:06 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Wild Moccasins, 'Eye Makeup'

Courtesy of the artist

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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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