Ann Powers

Spirit Family Reunion's Unbroken Circle

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

These Brooklyn-based musicians have called what they do "open-door gospel." Watch a video for their latest single, which could be a manifesto for any spiritually healthy person.


How To Be Alone: Musicians Confront Solitude

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

On new albums, Sufjan Stevens, Kendrick Lamar and Laura Marling all hold the world at a distance in order to embrace creation.


Benjamin Booker Faces The Past

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In a double-length video for two songs from his debut album, the punk-influenced blues singer struggles with civil rights issues that we can't seem to settle.


Sympathy For The Devils

Saturday, February 28, 2015

From Lana Del Rey to Father John Misty, musicians in the current pop moment who expose themselves, warts and all, do so in isolation, without support or challenge from a like-minded community.


From The Isleys To Aaliyah To Frank Ocean, The Evolution Of 'Love'

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Frank Ocean's cover of The Isley Brothers' "At Your Best (You Are Love)" shows how the singer is re-imagining R&B for the future by exploding stereotypes about gender.


Bjork's 'Vulnicura': An Inquiry Into Melodrama

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

If its songs demand that the listener get uncomfortably close to the viscera of romantic experience, they do so the better to expose how humans move through pain and finally justify leaving it behind.


Musicians You'll Tell Your Friends About In 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The new year offers a new set of musical surprises. Here is a section of 10 acts — under-the-radar or about to explode — who are ready for their moment in the spotlight.


Top 10 Top 40 For 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dig below the strata of pop songs so ubiquitous you can't stand to hear them any more, and you'll find plenty of riches in the Top 40, from country crossover to innovative R&B and classic pop.


In 2014, Pop Followed Beyonce's Lead

Friday, December 12, 2014

Beyonce's 2013 self-titled album explicitly connected feminism to sexual confidence; it cast a long shadow over the female-led pop singles that dominated Top 40 this year.


The Many New Voices Of Taylor Swift

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Swift has received accolades and damnation mostly for her image or the messages she supposedly sends, which must be irritating for a musician so clearly devoted to perfecting her techniques.


Hear Two Songs From Duncan Sheik's Next Album

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Legerdemain, out next April, will be the first album of original songs from the pop songwriter and Broadway composer since 2009, and you can download two songs from it here.


The Dream Of Ridiculous Men

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

For four decades, U2 has delivered huge rock songs and taken shots for being too serious. The band's new album, Songs of Innocence, provides a key to its long search for universal significance.


Roots, Plugged In

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The standout acts at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville last week wove electricity, individualism and rule-breaking together with tradition to create a joyful noise.


Morning Edition

Taylor Swift Aims For Pop's Throne

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Erstwhile country singer Taylor Swift has a new sound and a new goal: to be the world's biggest pop star, with all the attention and provocation that comes with the job.


Top 40 In A Summer Of Discontent

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's striking how little current pop hits reflect the angst and anger that have dominated this summer's news. But critic Ann Powers finds that one of 2014's biggest songs offers unexpected guidance.


East Nashville Rocks

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Four stories of rock and roll musicians making a home — and a scene — in a buzzing neighborhood just across the Cumberland River from the palaces of country music.


First Watch: Maddie & Tae, 'Girl In A Country Song'

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The video for the teenage duo Maddie & Tae's first single, "Girl In A Country Song," cheerfully turns the tables on the cartoonish macho tendencies of so much recent country music.


He'll Be There For You

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On his new album, X, rising singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran turns the at times troubling idea of the "friend zone" into something safe and sustaining.


A Gentle Buzz At The CMA Music Festival

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Five days of organized excitement in Nashville have their origins in a fan event, which makes for a more welcoming atmosphere than most American festivals — and no hierarchy of cool.


All Things Considered

The Three Kinds Of Posthumous Albums (And Where Michael Jackson Fits In)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Generally, new releases from deceased musicians fall into one of three categories. Michael Jackson's Xscape matches none of them exactly — but as part of his continuing story, it's a perfect fit.