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.

2:10pm

Mon July 27, 2015
Songs We Love

Songs We Love: Lizz Wright, 'River Man'

Originally published on Mon July 27, 2015 2:33 pm

Courtesy of the artist

Nick Drake's music is catnip to a certain kind of artist. Melodically pristine and rhythmically complex in quiet ways, the small songbook of the late English singer-songwriter offers interpreters a chance to be enchanting without stretching much. Yet to make Drake's songs new is a challenge. His vocal style of lingering around a beat, while playing guitar parts that were never flashy but always dazzlingly complex, is possible to imitate but difficult to make truly personal.

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8:03am

Wed March 11, 2015
The Record

Benjamin Booker Faces The Past

David Goldman Courtesy of the artist

11:02pm

Sun January 25, 2015
First Listen

First Listen: Diana Krall, 'Wallflower'

Originally published on Tue February 3, 2015 2:46 pm

Diana Krall's new album, Wallflower, comes out Feb. 3.
Courtesy of the artist

In the 1970s, when Diana Krall was growing up, children and young adolescents regularly encountered very adult music on Top 40 radio. These songs were different from the sexually explicit playground rhymes so common in mainstream music today.

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11:06pm

Sun November 30, 2014
First Listen

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

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

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

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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7:03am

Wed November 26, 2014
All Songs Considered

Songs We Love: Lead Belly, 'I'm So Glad, I Done Got Over'

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 12:00 pm

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

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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11:03pm

Sun June 1, 2014
First Listen

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

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 12:13 pm

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

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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8:03am

Fri November 1, 2013
The Record

Holding Music History In Your Hands: Why Archives Matter

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 7:23 pm

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