NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts were way ahead of the times.
Virtual concerts are the new norm, and NPR’s office-setting has been changing the lives of musicians and thrilling millions of viewers all over the world since 2008.
Bob Boilen first thought about creating Tiny Desk Concerts after attending SXSW to see one of his favorite artists, Laura Gibson, perform. A noisy film and music festival made Laura’s set nearly impossible to hear for Bob. Boilen joked with his partner that the next time Gibson was in town; they’d simply ask her to play a music set at his desk. Laura Gibson was in Washington, D.C. three weeks later and was more than happy to do it. They set up one mic, a few cameras and ran with it.
In NPR’s first year of its Tiny Desk Concerts, they only recorded 12. Nowadays, they stick around 12 performances each month.
Check out this 2020 playlist of the top Tiny Desk concerts so far, hand-selected to bring you some entertainment:
Good luck trying to classify Anderson .Paak and his band The Free Nationals. Much of their sound is layered atop a soulful hip-hop foundation, from there, your safest bet is to call it a hodgepodge of genres in the best way possible. Anderson performed back in 2016, but came back again in 2020.
Set list: “Beauty & Essex ” “On Sight (Featuring India Shawn)” “Gidget (Featuring Anderson .Paak)” “Eternal Light (Featuring Chronixx)”
The awkwardness of performing in a working office wasn’t lost on Harry Styles. “It just feels like you’re in the way,” he joked. However, when you watch his performance from behind Bob Boilen’s desk, you’d never suspect any discomfort from the lad.
Set list: “Cherry” “Watermelon Sugar” “To Be So Lonely” “Adore You”
And if you thought Harry Styles was awkward, just wait until Alex O’Connor chitchats in between performances. Introverted and shy, Alex sings about love and other b.s. he’s dealt with in his 21 years. I just wished they would have performed “Face to Face.”
Set list: “Loving Is Easy” “Pluto Projector” “Always” “Sunflower”
Watch The Lumineers play a four-song set for the smallest crowd in ages.
Set list: “Gloria” ” “Leader of the Landslide” “April (instrumental)” “Salt And The Sea” “Stubborn Love”
One of the best sounding performances of all-time, Snoh soothes the millennial audience with R&B feels without even trying.
Set list: “Love Like That” “I Want You Around” “Whoa” “Fool For You” “Find Someone Like You”
Dude can absolutely sing folk. He reminds me of Tracie Chapman mixed with John Mayer. If you haven’t listened to “Torch Song,” please do. J.S. Ondara’s connection to Minnesota makes him that much more special. He moved to the Twin Cities from Kenya to pursue his passion of music that eventually lead him to a Grammy nomination for best American album. His debut album “Tales of America” is out now.
Set list: “Lebanon” “Days Of Insanity” “Saying Goodbye”
I’ve steadily been going to Wale concerts since high school. His college tours, small venue performances and pop-up shows put D.C. on the map. Wale kicked off 2020’s Tiny Desk schedule after coming off a fall album that preached black success. Throughout 2019, Wale was pretty vocal on Twitter about not having to perform on Tiny Desk yet. In September, he tweeted, “Still never done tiny desk.. and it’s like 20 min away…” NPR made it happen four months later.
Set list: “Lotus Flower Bomb” “LoveHate Thing” “CC White” “Sexy Lady” “Sue Me” “On Chill”