Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the weekly NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

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 NPR programs such as Weekend Edition, 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 girlfriend, his daughter, their three cats and a room full of vintage arcade machines. (He also has a large adult son who has headed off to college but still calls once in a while.) Thompson's 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 (who returned the favor by making a 22-minute documentary about his life) and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Genre: Folk Pop

Why We're Excited: Nobody's Girl takes three hardworking veteran Austin singer-songwriters — BettySoo, Grace Pettis and The Voice alum Rebecca Loebe — and assembles them into a countrified folk-pop supergroup with a knack for choruses that soar. All three have found wide audiences as solo acts, but as a group, they form a harmony-rich Voltron that conjures a potent cocktail of joy, longing and defiance.

Hometown: Berlin, Germany

Genre: Classical

Hometown: Riverside, California

Genre: Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: Rapper Hook named herself after her own aptitude for writing catchy choruses, but she's the farthest thing from a source of mindless earworms. If anything, the combative raps on Crashed My Car bark and crackle so discordantly, you don't really find yourself nodding along so much as clenching your teeth approvingly.

Hometown: Manalapan, New Jersey

Genre: Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: At 20, singer-rapper Audrey Chu — she goes by the stage name Audrey Nuna — has already had a wide-ranging career, with credits ranging from a Google Pixel commercial to a string of gigs singing "The Star Spangled Banner" before sporting events. Now, she's a fast-rising rapper whose flow captures a bleary-eyed swirl of aspiration, hedonism and deeply complicated romance.

Every year, NPR's Stephen Thompson compiles The Austin 100 — a playlist of his favorite artist discoveries ahead of the SXSW Music Festival. Though this year's festival was canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus, The Austin 100 will still publish on Monday, the day the music performances were supposed to begin. NPR's Renee Montagne spoke to Stephen Thompson about a few of the artists featured in this year's roundup.

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