Music

Music

Ben Johnston doesn't follow the rules of music. Sure, he's got degrees from two colleges and a conservatory. But from an early age, Johnston heard music differently. When he was growing up in Georgia, he questioned the standard scales he was taught in school. "I played by ear and I invented my own chords," he says.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

In the last week of 2016, we're featuring just a few of the songs that, for whatever reason, never got their due this year.

2016 has brought a ceaseless string of tributes to beloved musicians who've just died. So do yourself a favor and set aside a few minutes to watch this celebration, in which one living legend pays tribute to another.

In the last week of 2016, we're featuring just a few of the songs that, for whatever reason, never got their due this year.

The weather in LA is baffling. It is, depending on a number of factors (your mood, age, circumstance), either miraculous or infuriating how relentlessly beautiful it is out there. Blue-skied bliss is a constant.

By some force, the men of Studio OST have found a way to bottle this surrealism into song: "ITCZ" is music as ceaseless, freakish and leisurely as a belt of warmed air through the endless LA summer.

NPR first spoke with performance artist Taylor Mac this September, during rehearsals for a marathon physical and artistic feat: a 24-hour-long show covering the history of American popular music from 1776 to the present. Mac performed the full show, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, on Oct. 8, and it was a huge success. All 700 tickets sold out — and most people stayed awake the whole time.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

We had some memorable conversations with a lot of our favorite musicians in 2016.

In the last week of 2016, Songs We Love is featuring just a few of the songs that, for whatever reason, never got their due this year.

The clarinet and guitar are common enough instruments, but you've probably never heard them sound quite like this. In the hands of guitarist Golfam Khayam and clarinetist Mona Matbou Riahi, the instruments breathe together in music that borrows melody and improvisation from their Iranian homeland and classical structures from the West.

December is the time of year when music critics go back through all the albums of the past 12 months and rank them. This year, there's one artist who appears on nearly everyone's list, but isn't around to hear the praise.

In August 2016, Swedish singer-songwriter Daniel Norgren made his first U.S. appearance. His music, however, is indigenous to this soil: His rock-steady ragtime piano playing has a chooglin' ease, and his voice would be right at home echoing off the walls of Levon Helm's barn.

In the last week of 2016, we're featuring just a few of the songs that, for whatever reason, never got their due this year.

George Michael: A Father Figure For Political Pop

Dec 27, 2016

Solange Knowles created an album of self-healing, family healing and ancestral healing, but it ended up being her most commercially successful to date. A Seat At The Table is NPR Music's No. 1 album of 2016, which is a good reason to hear her November interview with Ari Shapiro again.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

I could call this list "The Songs I Love To Drive Around With." More often than not, these 2016 songs set you up for a brilliant climax, often an unforgettable chorus. And I found a wide variety of artists that made songs with that memorable character, artists ranging from barely 20 years old to a reflective 82, from Niger to Nashville, from British hip-hop to yearning falsetto. I'd be thrilled to turn on a radio and hear this broad world of sound represent the Top 40.

Bob Boilen's Top 40 Songs Of 2016

Don't think for a moment that we didn't struggle as we compiled our list of the best World Cafe interviews and performances of 2016. We had to choose from over 200 sessions we recorded this year in our studio, onstage at World Cafe Live and on our "Sense of Place" travel adventures.

In 2007, mashup artist Jordan Roseman — better known as DJ Earworm — took the top 25 songs from that year and wove them into a single track. He called it "United State of Pop," and he's been doing it every year since.

British pop singer George Michael, who achieved fame as half of the duo Wham! before a breakout solo career, has died at his home in Oxfordshire, England, his publicist tells NPR. He was 53.

Amy Grant, a veteran of Christian pop music, has released four Christmas albums in her nearly 40-year career. But she says her latest holiday album, Tennessee Christmas, takes a slightly different approach. "I just feel like I've done the sort of musically cinematic approach to Christmas. But what I feel now, in my mid-50s, is how much sadness there is," she says.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JINGLE BELLS")

FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Pages