NPR’s Ann Powers talks new book, music and her Seattle roots

Powers’ book examines the role of sex, gender and race in creating popular music.

Ann Powers has made her mark as a music critic for over three decades at outlets like the Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice, The Rocket and her current employer, NPR. Much of her writing has chronicled the role of gender and race within the pop- music landscape, which is also the turf she explores in “Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music” (Dey Street, $26.99, 412 pages). She discusses the book with DJ Riz Rollins in a presentation by Town Hall Seattle on Friday, Sept. 8.

“Good Booty” is a sharp analysis of the role that sex, gender and race played in creating popular music in America. Powers argues that music is intrinsically intertwined with these themes, and shaped by it. “American popular music, our nation’s first original art form,” she writes, “is made of our best impulses toward freedom, community, and self-realization, and our worst legacies of racial oppression and sexual hypocrisy.”

In “Good Booty” Powers also challenges popular conceptions about when rock ‘n’ roll as a form even began, suggesting that it formed long before Elvis shook his hips in the fifties.

Author appearance

Ann Powers

The author of “Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music” will speak with Riz Rollins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at Town Hall Seattle’s temporary location, The Summit on Pike, 420 E. Pike St.; $5 (

“It really begins at the dawn of our country,” she said the other day from her home in Nashville. She begins “Good Booty” with a tale of how Methodists in the early 1800s were already arguing about how much they should move their bodies when playing church music.

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Powers shifts her book from those early days all the way to the modern era when she suggests a pop artist like Rihanna can both be defined by the domestic violence she suffered at the hand of Chris Brown, but then reclaim her sexuality away from victimhood in a later video she did with Brown.

She argues that music has shifted in the modern era, where what is counterculture is unclear. “I was just listening to the new Keisha,” she says, “and she’s articulating a persona of a messed-up psychology, but it’s a dialogue she’s having within the mainstream, without thinking of…

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