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Stephen Thompson

Bo Burnham.
Rich Fury
Getty Images
Bo Burnham.

It can be hard to tease out commonalities in any given best-of-the-year list; after all, the primary commonality they share is that one irrelevant stray speck in an unfeeling universe singled them out for praise at the same time. But this particular speck was endlessly moved by the vast well of empathy these works contain, whether they tell untold stories (Jazmine Sullivan), grow from their pain (Arooj Aftab, Emily Scott Robinson, Madi Diaz, Cassandra Jenkins, Allison Russell, et al) or, like Bo Burnham, merely indulge in "the quiet comprehending of the ending of it all."

Top 10 Albums of 2021


1. Arooj Aftab, Vulture Prince
2. Jazmine Sullivan, Heaux Tales
3. Emily Scott Robinson, American Siren
4. Madi Diaz, History Of A Feeling
5. Flock Of Dimes, Head Of Roses
6. Allison Russell, Outside Child
7. Olivia Rodrigo, SOUR
8. Lucy Dacus, Home Video
9. Black Country, New Road, For the first time
10. Bo Burnham, Inside (The Songs)

Top 10 Songs of 2021


1. Cassandra Jenkins, "Hard Drive"
2. Jazmine Sullivan, "The Other Side"
3. Emily Scott Robinson, "Let 'Em Burn"
4. Big Thief, "Little Things"
5. Muna, "Silk Chiffon (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)"
6. Snail Mail, "Valentine"
7. Madi Diaz, "Nervous"
8. Yasmin Williams, "Juvenescence"
9. Bo Burnham/Phoebe Bridgers, "That Funny Feeling"
10. Jon Hopkins, "Sit Around The Fire (feat. Ram Dass & East Forest)"

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the 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. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)