Delaware Public Media

Alison Fensterstock

It's not enough to make list after list. The Turning the Tables project seeks to suggest alternatives to the traditional popular music canon, and to do more than that, too: to stimulate conversation about how hierarchies emerge and endure. This year, Turning the Tables considers how women and non-binary artists are shaping music in our moment, from the pop mainstream to the sinecures of jazz and contemporary classical music. Our list of the 200 Greatest Songs By Women+ offers a soundtrack to a new century. This series of essays takes on another task.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


When Candi Staton first auditioned the drummer for Unstoppable, her 30th studio album, he had not, let's say, fully matured as an artist.

With the title of their 2017 release, Dirty Pictures (Part 1), Philly rockers Low Cut Connie had already telegraphed what was on the way.

"What a schmuck I would be if I didn't have a part two, right?," frontman Adam Weiner tells NPR.

In three-quarter profile, half-smiling at the camera over his elaborately tattooed shoulder, New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, Jr. appeared on the cover of the April 2015 issue of the venerable Louisiana music monthly Offbeat.

Calling Fats Domino an architect of rock and roll almost sounds like faint praise. Indeed, the amiable country boy from the Lower Ninth Ward, with the help of bandleader impresario Dave Bartholomew and one of the world's truly legendary gangs of sidemen, dug the hole and laid the actual foundation.

At 46, Ben Jaffe is almost exactly the same age as Jazz Fest. Like a lot of New Orleans natives, he has memories of the annual event stretching back to childhood, though his experience is a little more rarefied than most. "That's where I got to sit on Fats Domino's lap and then hear him play," he says. "It's where I heard Allen Toussaint play for the first time as a child.