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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The Record
11:23 am
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 May 21, 2015 11:41 am

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
12:36 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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First Listen
9:04 pm
Sun May 3, 2015

Review: Buffy Sainte-Marie, 'Power In The Blood'

Buffy Sainte-Marie's new album, Power In The Blood, comes out May 12.
Matt Barnes Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 2:18 pm

It's tempting to mythologize Buffy Sainte-Marie — to call her a folk-music mother of dragons, or at least a shaman calling up lost spirits in her music. It's easy, after all, to exoticize individualistic women, especially women of color; doing so can even feel like offering a compliment. But on Power In The Blood, her first studio album since 2008, the 74-year-old firebrand defies categorization, as she has throughout a half-century of recording.

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First Listen
10:05 pm
Sun April 26, 2015

Review: Chris Stapleton, 'Traveller'

Chris Stapleton's new album, Traveller, comes out May 4.
Becky Fluke Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 1:58 pm

Even the most seemingly organic contemporary country albums — the ones by often-awarded "authentic" artists like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church — can sometimes show evidence of a checklist.

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First Listen
9:04 pm
Sun April 26, 2015

Review: Torres, 'Sprinter'

Torres's new album, Sprinter, comes out May 4.
Shawn Brackbill Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 1:57 pm

"Confessional" is a term often tossed around in discussions of singer-songwriters, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. In a recent interview, Mackenzie Scott, who makes music under the name Torres, called it "a four-letter word," common and pejorative, and overapplied to women in particular.

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First Listen
9:03 pm
Sun April 12, 2015

Review: Alabama Shakes, 'Sound & Color'

The Alabama Shakes' new album, Sound & Color, comes out April 21.
Brantley Gutierrez Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 9:27 am

In the six years I've lived in the region, I've developed a mantra: Southern freaks are the best freaks. For me, the word "freak" can be both positive and downright spiritual. It describes serious individualists who are tolerant of others whose own paths may diverge from their own; people whose ways of thinking connect to form an antidote to the deep conventionality that often surrounds them.

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First Listen
9:03 pm
Sun April 5, 2015

Review: Dwight Yoakam, 'Second Hand Heart'

Dwight Yoakam's new album, Second Hand Heart, comes out April 14.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 9:56 am

When Dwight Yoakam was making his first demos in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, a producer told him that his sound was "so hillbilly, they're going to call it rock 'n' roll." He was pointing to both the rawness in the Kentucky native's sound and its wicked precision, grounded in the great virtuoso art of bluegrass; and the depth of lyrics balancing the plainspokenness of Ohio Valley people who raised him and their eloquence, born of Bible reading and family-transmitted ballads and tales. "I've done a lot of miles on hillbilly highways.

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The Record
11:23 am
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 11:15 am

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The Record
6:03 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Benjamin Booker Faces The Past

David Goldman Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
8:21 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 2:17 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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