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
10:03 pm
Sun June 1, 2014

First Listen: Jose James, 'While You Were Sleeping'

Jose James' new album, While You Were Sleeping, comes out June 10.
Janette Beckman Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 11:13 am

When the spirit of Nirvana surfaces in a song, the artist paying tribute almost always shares style points with that treasured band. The hair is shaggy, the clothes a little ragged; the lineage unfolds, relatively neatly, from punk to the present.

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First Listen
10:03 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 1:32 pm

"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
10:09 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Hurray For The Riff Raff's New Political Folk

Hurray For The Riff Raff's Alynda Lee Segarra.
Joshua Shoemaker Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 8:39 am

How many choruses does it take to turn a party song into an engine causing social change? Is it possible to honor American cultural traditions while dismantling the traps and habits that make them restrictive? Every so often a new voice engages these basic questions in subtle, exciting new ways. Alynda Lee Segarra, the 27-year-old guiding light of the New Orleans-based band Hurray For The Riff Raff, is this year's champion.

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The Record
1:13 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

'12 Years A Slave' Is This Year's Best Film About Music

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave.
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 2:02 pm

12 Years a Slave is the most compelling film about music to be released this year, maybe this century. It's so many other things, too, as others have noted: a corrective to the weird cocktail of piety and cartoonishness that Hollywood usually supplies when depicting slavery; a gorgeous art film and an actor's hellish paradise; a cultural highlight of the Obama administration.

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The Record
7:03 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Holding Music History In Your Hands: Why Archives Matter

Ma Rainey Georgia Jazz Band posing for a studio group shot in the mid-1920s, with Thomas A. Dorsey at the piano.
JP Jazz Archive Redferns

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 6:23 pm

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The Record
11:23 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

'90s Nostalgia Revisited: 6 Musicians We Miss

P.M. Dawn, sometime in the '90s.
Mick Hutson Redferns

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 7:11 am

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All Songs Considered
3:12 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

First Watch: Nora Jane Struthers, 'Bike Ride'

Courtesy of the artist

For those who haven't yet discovered Nora Jane Struthers, the summery song "Bike Ride" is a great introduction to her beguiling, well-considered worldview. The first time Struthers sings the song's most important line — "I can go anywhere" — the phrase rises up out of her throat, free, wide open. The second time, a phrase later, she clamps down on it with some grit. "'Bike Ride' is a song about a re-awakening," the 29-year-old Nashville resident said in a recent email. "When you propel yourself forward through time and space on your own steam, you realize your own agency."

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The Record
4:52 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Country Music's Year Of The Woman

Miranda Lambert performing in April at the Academy of Country Music Awards, where she won best song, best record and best female vocalist for the fourth year in a row. The Lambert Effect has opened doors for many of the new hopefuls blending hard country sounds with feminist-aware attitudes.
Kevin Winter/ACMA2013 Getty Images for ACM

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 5:41 am

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The Record
7:06 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Springsteen's American Dream, Beautiful And Bleak

Bruce Springsteen onstage during the Born in the USA tour in 1985.
Richard E. Aaron Redferns

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 6:39 pm

I fell in love with Bruce Springsteen for his swagger. It was ridiculous and offered so much hope. Here was a bony dude with the worst haircut ever, who wore T-shirts covered in holes — seriously, he looked like the fry cook at the amusement park where I worked as a counter girl in the summer — making music as big as the known universe.

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The Record
4:29 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

The Many Voices Of Donna Summer

"Queen of Disco" Donna Summer performs in 1979. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Michael Ochs Archives Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 3:36 pm

Pop singer Donna Summer, whose long career began in the 1960s and reached its apex in the disco era of the '70s, died of cancer on Thursday at her home in Naples, Florida. Summer was 63 years old. According to Billboard magazine, the singer born LaDonna Gaines had 32 singles that charted in the Hot 100. Fourteen of them made it into the top 10. To hear Sami Yenigun's appreciation of Donna Summer's life and career, as heard on All Things Considered, click the audio link.

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