Music

On Thursday night, the rapper Nas posted a sprawling open letter to his ex-wife on Instagram in which he denied the allegations of physical and mental abuse that she publicly made against him in April.

Paul Simon says he's ready to stop touring and retire from music. But first, he's going back through his discography to do a little tinkering.

This week's essential new releases includes Paul McCartney's best album in 20 years, the funk and disco of St. Paul & The Broken Bones, dark and twisted sounds from the rap duo $UICIDEBOY$ and more. All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers, Lars Gotrich, Marissa Lorusso, Stephen Thompson and Rodney Carmichael.

Featured Albums:

  1. St. Paul & The Broken Bones: Young Sick Camellia
    Featured Song: "Got It Bad"

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

The mic-stand tango and primal scream of Charles Bradley lives on. The posthumous final album from the legendary soul singer, who died last year, has been announced. Bradley's final album, Black Velvet, is due out Nov. 9 via Dunham and Daptone Records.

This week, join host Fiona Ritchie for more new recordings that have arrived through the summer months, just waiting for an hour of your time. Some of the featured artists included are Low Lily, The Tannahill Weavers, the Yves Lambert Trio, and Open the Door for Three.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The cause of the surprising January death of Dolores O'Riordan, singer of Irish band The Cranberries who rose to fame in the '90s with a string of radio hits including "Zombie" and "Linger," has been determined. London Inner West coroner Dr. Shirley Radcliffe found O'Riordan's death to have been an accident, caused by alcohol intoxication and drowning.

It's easy to love, worship and seek to emulate Joni Mitchell – but it's not so easy to pay proper tribute to her. That's why celebrations centered on her music are so fun. They challenge each performer, usually a besotted Joni devotee, to engage her tricky rhythms and find footing in her sometimes octave-jumping melodies; to parse her words — those phrases piercing through the particular into the universal — without slavishly imitating her Canadian cadences.

Prince is everything. Yes, I'm using a meme-ably meaningless phrase to describe the most fascinating artist to reign during my lifetime, but it's nearly factual for the Purple One: the intense reconsideration so many listeners have given his work since his death in April 2016 continues to reveal new facets of his genius and his work's cultural importance.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

On the coffee table of his cozy East Nashville apartment, Aaron Lee Tasjan has a notebook open to autobiographical scrawling — it's a kind of cheat sheet to his musical past, which he prepared, with his mother's help, just in case he forgot anything during his interview with NPR. To be fair, it isn't all that simple to retrace his weaving, winding musical path. The singer-songwriter tried out a variety of musical niches, cities and scenes before landing in Nashville.

It was a celebration — a daylong tribute, full of stories sharing how Aretha Franklin's life touched her Detroit community and the world.

There were moments of politics and humor, but most of all, the Queen of Soul was honored with music at the Greater Grace Temple Church in Detroit on Friday.

As the church swelled with attendees — a who's who of big names in music, sports and politics were present to pay their respects: The Clark Sisters, Ariana Grande, former basketball star Isiah Thomas and former President Bill Clinton. The missing voice was Aretha Franklin's.

Aretha Franklin's funeral service remembers and celebrates the "Queen of Soul." Beloved by millions around the world, Franklin — who died of cancer on Aug. 16 — also leaves behind a six-decade career of advocacy, becoming a symbol and transformative leader in both the women's rights and the civil rights movements.

Here is a visual recollection of the funeral of one of America's most celebrated artists. This collection will updated throughout the day.

Aretha Franklin is being laid to rest in Detroit, in a ceremony attended by legendary musicians and a former president. In the U.K., the Queen of Soul was also honored on Friday at Buckingham Palace, where a military band played "Respect."

The palace's famous changing of the guard took place just before Franklin's funeral was set to begin in the U.S. — and the Band of the Welsh Guards, which provides music during the ceremony, took the moment to honor her.

Eminem surprised fans and foes early Friday morning with an unannounced album, Kamikaze.

The 11-song album was executive produced by Dr. Dre and released on Dre's Interscope imprint, Aftermath Entertainment.

Rising singer Jessie Reyez, Detroit veteran Royce Da 5'9" and rapper Joyner Lucas guest on the album, which features Eminem taking shots at President Trump, the music press, and young rappers in general.

When George Li, the 23-year-old American pianist, revealed his Tiny Desk setlist, one thought came to mind: How will these powerhouse showstoppers sound on an upright piano? The music he intended to play, by Franz Liszt and Vladimir Horowitz, was designed for a real, 7-foot concert grand piano – the kind they used to call "a symphony orchestra in a box."

The Detroit Free Press issued a stern directive to fans and would-be Instagram influencers gathering this week to commemorate Aretha Franklin in her hometown. "Remember," admonished staffer (and occasional NPR contributor) Rochelle Riley in her Tuesday column, "We will treat this like church." No selfies are allowed with Franklin's gold-plated coffin, as she lay in repose at the Charles H.

Update: This live stream has ended.


Since Aretha Franklin's death on Aug. 16, the world has memorialized the soul icon in fitting fashion — as a Queen. Her voice "captured the experience of living through profound change and showed how to preserve integrity in its wake," as Ann Powers wrote, an example that can feel desperately absent in these times of turmoil, but one that remains just a memory away.

Renée Fleming is becoming America's go-to singer. The celebrated soprano, who has performed at a broad range of high-profile events off the opera stage, is scheduled to sing at Senator John McCain's memorial service this Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral.

Fleming is slated to sing the Irish standard "Danny Boy" — at McCain's request — alongside tributes to the late Senator by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a homily by Bay Area Catholic leader Father Edward A. Reese.

When Detroit celebrates the life of Aretha Franklin on Friday, there will be more than 100 pink Cadillacs lining the road in front of the church where her funeral will occur. It's a tribute to the Queen of Soul and one of her biggest, Grammy-winning hits.

A few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, composer Gabriel Kahane decided he needed to take a journey. On Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the votes were counted, Kahane boarded an Amtrak train in Penn Station in New York City. He left his smartphone behind. He unplugged from the Internet. And he spent the next two weeks riding across the country, talking to people.

Updated Aug. 28 at 3:07 p.m. ET

"They want to see that I fall / 'Cause I'm Michael Jackson."
Lyric from "Breaking News"

Maybe. Maybe not.

Jamie Bernstein can't call her childhood a typical one. On any given weekend, she might find Lauren Bacall, Isaac Stern, Richard Avedon, Mike Nichols, Stephen Sondheim, Lillian Hellman or Sidney Lumet hanging out at her house. Jamie's father was Leonard Bernstein.

The man who waited outside John Lennon's New York apartment building and then shot him to death in 1980 has been denied parole a 10th time.

Mark David Chapman, 63, stood before a New York State Board of Parole panel on Wednesday. In its decision, which was emailed to NPR, the panel said that releasing him would be "incompatible with the welfare and safety of society."

It also noted that the fact that Chapman has only one crime on his criminal record does not mitigate his actions.

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