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Ailsa Chang

Over her decades-long career, Tracee Ellis Ross has starred in beloved shows such as Black-ish and Girlfriends. But as she sees it, her latest role is her most daunting one yet. In The High Note, available to stream on Apple TV on May 29, she plays a superstar singer named Grace Davis, who's facing career stagnancy. Meanwhile, Davis' personal assistant Maggie (played by Dakota Johnson) has musical ambitions of her own as an aspiring producer.

Moses Sumney spent years searching for the sound on his new, double album grae. It began in 2013, when he first tried to break into the Los Angeles music scene — and got interest from record labels almost immediately.

School hasn't ended yet in most places around the country. But educators are already grappling with what the next academic year will look like, as the future spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. remains unclear.

This week, California State University — the largest four-year public college system in the country — announced it plans to suspend in-person classes for its roughly 480,000 students for the semester beginning in August and move most instruction online.

The university system consists of 23 campuses, covering an 800-mile swath of the state.

Coronavirus fatalities in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for at least one-third of the deaths in 26 states.

Listen close to the New Orleans band Sweet Crude, and you'll hear a linguistic relic from America's deep South. They sing in Louisiana French, a dialect spoken for generations in Louisiana — until the 20th century, when schools in the state became more Anglicized.

"My grandfather's first language is Louisiana French — and he would get punished in school if he spoke French," singer Alexis Marceau says. "So it started to dissipate and go away."

Inspiration can strike at unexpected times. That was the case for Fiona Apple, the celebrated singer and songwriter who released her first album in eight years this month. It's called Fetch the Bolt Cutters and the title comes from a piece of dialogue that struck her while watching a crime drama on Netflix.

In one episode of The Fall, a British show starring Gillian Anderson as a police detective, Anderson and her crew track down and free a girl who had been kidnapped and locked away.

As rockers enter middle age, is there a graceful way for their music to reflect that same transition? It's a question that Stephen Malkmus has been trying to answer on a string of recent solo albums.

The question of how Billboard determines the most popular music in the country has gotten a lot harder in the digital age. It used to be a simple question of which album sold the most physical copies, but now Billboard needs to consider things like Spotify plays and mp3 downloads. Starting Jan. 3, it will also include YouTube streams.

NPR's Ailsa Chang talks to Chris Molanphy, a chart analyst and pop critic at Slate, about the significance of this change. Listen at the audio link and read on for an edited version of their conversation.

In the industrial city of Dongguan, China, the effects of the trade war on the Chinese economy are measured in idled machinery and empty bar stools.

"One year ago, you probably couldn't even get through the crowd because it would be so busy. But right now, even the smallest vendors can't survive," says Song Guanghui, the owner of Crowdbar, a tricked-out food stall in an open-air market in Dongguan.

Seventy years ago, Mao Zedong appeared on a balcony overlooking Tiananmen Square and conjured a new country into being. On Tuesday, Xi Jinping, arguably the strongest leader since Mao, appeared on that same balcony to reaffirm his vision of modern China.

That vision includes what Xi has repeatedly referred to as the "Chinese Dream," one pillar of which is the idea that all Chinese should have access to the shared prosperity of the nation.

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