Ed Sheeran: The X Factor

What Ed Sheeran’s huge success showed was the endurance of the acoustic guitar in popular music—not just in the singer-songwriter or country-bluegrass realms, but also in the pure, unadulterated, teen-loving pop world. In this 2014 multimedia package, I talked to him and others about his music and guitars, and he performed an unplugged version of his hit “Thinking Out Loud.”

Ani DiFranco: Return of the Righteous Babe

Early on in what’s come to be slandered by the right as “cancel culture,” Ani DiFranco angered fans by planning an artist retreat at a former plantation. The irony was that DiFranco had spent her entire career as a stanch political ally, not just of Black Americans, but of all people of color, all gender identifications, the poor — basically, all people marginalized by the dominant culture. She survived the controversy with her fanbase intact.