Ann K. Powers (born February 4, 1964) is an American writer and pop music critic. She is a music critic for NPR and a contributor at the Los Angeles Times, where she was previously chief pop critic. She has also served as pop critic at The New York Times and an editor at The Village Voice. Powers is the author of Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America, a memoir; Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black & White, Body and Soul in American Music, on eroticism in American pop music; and Piece by Piece, co-authored with Tori Amos.
Early life and education
Powers was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. During elementary school, her first poem was published in the Our Lady of Fatima school newspaper.
After a brief tenure as Blender magazine's senior critic, in March 2006, she accepted a position as chief pop critic at the Los Angeles Times, where she succeeded Robert Hilburn. Powers wrote regularly for Pop & Hiss, the Los Angeles Times' music blog, in addition to other features and news articles. She remained in this position until March 2011, when she departed for NPR, though she continued as a contributor for the Los Angeles Times afterward.
Since 2011, Powers has been NPR Music's critic and correspondent. Powers has written for The Record, NPR's blog about finding, making, buying, sharing, and talking about music, since April 2011.
In 2017, Powers spearheaded a multi-platform project at NPR called Turning the Tables. The project sought to reconstitute the canon of American popular music by publishing a list of the 150 greatest albums by women and a related series of essays, audio features, and events.
Powers is also the Nashville correspondent for World Cafe, regularly recording sessions with local and regional Southern musicians.
Powers' work often critiques the perceptions of sex, racial, and social minorities in the music industry. She has written about topics such as religion, feminism, and film.
Powers co-edited the 1995 anthology Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap, and was the guest editor of the Da Capo PressBest Music Writing 2010.
In 2000, Powers published the memoir Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America. The book focuses on Powers' time living in Seattle, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. Joshua Klein of the A.V. Club described the project as "us[ing Powers'] personal experiences to define how youth culture (what she calls bohemianism) has changed over the years (though she lingers mostly on the '80s)."
In 2005, Powers co-wrote the book Piece by Piece with musician Tori Amos. The book discusses the role of women in the modern music industry and features information about composing, touring, performance, and the realities of the music business.
Powers wrote a proposal for a book on Kate Bush's album The Dreaming that was slated to be published in 2007 as part of the 33 1/3 series; however, the project was abandoned when Powers started her job at the Los Angeles Times, and the book was never written.
In August 2017, Powers published the book Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black & White, Body and Soul in American Music. The book reconsiders the history of American popular music through the lens of sexuality and eroticism. It was positively reviewed and was chosen as one of the best books of 2017 by The Wall Street Journal,NPR, No Depression, and Buzzfeed.
Powers has appeared in various TV shows and documentaries. She was in the film The Punk Singer as an interviewee discussing the influence of Kathleen Hanna on punk music. She also appeared in the 2005 documentary The Gits and the 2015 documentary Undeniably Donnie.