Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he curates Song of the Day, fusses over the placement of commas and appears as a frequent panelist on the podcasts All Songs Considered and Pop Culture Happy Hour. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the weekly NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk.

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 the NPR programs Weekend Edition Sunday, Weekend All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the only 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 forthcoming anthology 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 two children and a Frogger machine. His 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 and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
1:43 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

The New York trio performed their new single "Sacrilege" for the first time in front of an audience.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Mon April 22, 2013 3:59 pm

Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O pulls off one of the trickiest maneuvers in rock 'n' roll: the ability to appear utterly bonkers on stage while remaining in control of every chaotic outburst. The woman knows how to make an entrance, too: She emerged on stage at Stubb's in Austin — for the band's sole appearance at SXSW 2013 — clad in canary yellow, sporting a sparkly fez, giant eyeglasses, and a glittering scarf.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
1:42 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Nick Cave performs at Stubb's Bar-B-Q as part of NPR Music's 2013 SXSW Showcase.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 2:44 pm

It began, appropriately enough, with a plea for darkness. Nick Cave may have opened his SXSW set in the twilight hours, but if anyone could will the night into being, it's the black-clad Australian star.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
5:13 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Alt-J, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Alt-J lead vocalist Joe Newman gives his unique voice a break during the band's show at NPR Music's SXSW showcase at Stubb's in Austin.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:02 pm

  • Alt-J Recorded Live At Stubb's

Alt-J's Joe Newman has a funny way of singing — especially for the uninitiated, it can seem cartoonish or, worse, affected. He bends his high, twisty voice in strange ways, wrapping it around inventive arrangements that burble and boom and otherwise ramp up a sense of unease. The easiest way to embrace Alt-J's idiosyncratic charm is to witness the band live; to hear how often Newman sings quietly and subtly, and to get a fuller feel for the prettiness at the core of Alt-J's songs.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
4:54 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Le1f, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Le1f performs at NPR Music's 2013 SXSW Showcase at Stubb's.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 9:00 am

  • Le1f, Recorded Live At Stubb's

Backed by only a DJ, New York rapper Le1f and his three-foot blond braids proved an apt counterpart to Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O, who'd finished performing on the nearby Stubb's main stage just minutes earlier. He performed with confidence, command and occasionally avant-garde fearlessness, but also kept an eye trained on a desire to entertain, above all else.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
4:21 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Youth Lagoon, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon performs at NPR Music's 2013 SXSW Showcase at Stubb's.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 9:00 am

A studio wizard still in his early 20s, Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers makes music that documents the spiraling uncertainty of a worried mind. It must have been tough to translate to the live stage, where the comfort and cover of the studio are stripped away and every fussy swirl has to be thoughtfully re-created or excised entirely.

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