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I think Randy Newman is a national treasure. If he was just a funny guy making music, I'd be OK with that, but his wit is sardonic, satirical and politically on point. Mixing politics and humor with music is usually about the punchline, and his punchlines even make the singer smile.

Randy Newman paints lasting portraits of places and people, all the while poking fun and highlighting injustice, stupidity, power and humanity and he's been doing it for half a century. Here are the opening lines to his recently released song "Putin":

As one half of Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers owns one of the most important voices of a generation. It should come as no surprise to those of us who have spent a lot of time with Saliers' voice that her debut solo album, Murmunation Nation, teems with warm sounds and winding words that oscillate between the urgent and the eternal.

This essay is one in a series celebrating deserving artists or albums not included on NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums By Women.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

One of the most influential figures in hip-hop will now take a lead role in one of the nation's most prestigious cultural institutions.

Q-Tip, along with Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White, formed A Tribe Called Quest in the early '90s. The hip-hop collective introduced smooth beats and sharp social commentary inspired by the group's friendship and the issues of the time.

Last year, the group released what would turn out to be its final album, We Got It from Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service, after the death of Phife Dawg.

Jason Aldean is going to grab the headlines this morning, but he wasn't the only chart-topping musician on Saturday Night Live this week.

Sam Smith made his second appearance on the set at Studio 8H to promote his upcoming sophomore album, The Thrill Of It All, which is due out November 3. He performed the album's two lead singles, the stone-faced lament "Too Good At Goodbyes" and atheist hymn "Pray."

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