Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he writes the advice column The Good Listener, fusses over the placement of commas 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.

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, 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 two children, his girlfriend, their four cats and a room full of vintage arcade machines. 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.

Hometown: Montreal, Canada (born/raised in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Genre: Funk / Pop

Why We're Excited: Congolese Canadian Pierre Kwenders sings in five languages — and incorporates at least that many genres into his sultry, swaying, busy, funky pop music. Named for a Henry Miller trilogy, "Sexus Plexus Nexus" brings sex talk and saxophones together, where they've always belonged.

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Hometown: Austin, Texas

Genre: R&B

Why We're Excited: The daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Mélat Kassa grew up on her parents' lovingly curated mixture of African pop and American R&B. It shows in her own sleekly rendered soul sound, which fits right in with the likes of SZA while still making room for a song sung in Amharic. "Push" (produced by Janspot J) radiates lovestruck desire in a busy mix that exudes confidence and style.

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Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Pop

Why We're Excited: It's hard to describe The Marías without using the adjective "smooth" in every sentence. That's the farthest thing from a put-down: Led by singer Maria Zardoya, the band employs maximal slinkiness in the service of jazzy, gauzy, utterly charming, slyly funky pop.

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Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Genre: R&B

Why We're Excited: Recording under the name Love Moor, Erica Andrew makes assured and ingratiating R&B that doesn't hit a nerve so much as slide under the skin when no one's looking. Producer Suaze gives Andrew's intimate vocals a smoothed-out, ethereal quality, as their shared songs often breeze in and out in two minutes or less — just enough time for them to set a mood, plant a thought and disappear.

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Hometown: Bronx, New York

Genre: Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: Kemba's 2016 album Negus offers up a deep and scathingly provocative examination of race relations in America. But the Bronx rapper bares his plaintive side — and his vulnerable, expressive singing voice — in "LoveGoes," which crackles with romantic tension.

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