About 12 years ago, the Tiny Desk Concert series was born in the NPR offices in Washington D.C.. The host of NPR Music’s “All Things Considered” Bob Boilen had folk singer Laura Gibson come into the office and play at his desk for the NPR staff. Since it’s inception, the Tiny Desk Concert series has erupted into an incredible phenomenon, with over 800 concerts performed by artists from across the globe. Tiny Desk Concerts are not only a great way to discover new music, but they’re an incredible way to hear new arrangements of songs by your favorite artists.
In these truly uncertain times that have left us all with a fair amount of time on our hands, we compiled a list of 10 Tiny Desk Concerts to help calm your nerves.
In the most recent edition of the Tiny Desk Concert series, Rex Orange County shared his low-key jazz influenced pop songs with the world. He played stripped back versions of “Loving Is Easy,” “Pluto Projector,” “Always,” and “Sunflower.” It’s a great career-spanning setlist for Rex Orange County, and the horn parts are sure to get you dancing around in your living room.
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
In one of the most watched Tiny Desk Concert’s of all time, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals brought their funky mix of Urban, Hip-Hop, and R&B influence to the NPR offices. It’s impossible to watch this performance and come out on the other side not feeling good. The performance was filmed after the release of Malibu, and Anderson .Paak’s fun performance will get you grooving in your seat.
Following the release of Fine Line at the end of 2019, Harry Styles stepped behind the Tiny Desk in early 2020 to play an array of songs from his sophomore album. Styles told the stories behind the songs as he worked his way through his 4 song setlist, which included “Cherry,” “Watermelon Sugar,” “To Be So Lonely,” and “Adore You.” He was backed by his touring band, who captured the stripped back versions of the songs flawlessly.
If you’re looking to be pleasantly surprised, T-Pain’s 2014 Tiny Desk Concert is the perfect video to watch. He plays 3 songs, and you’ve never heard T-Pain like this before. His smooth vocals paired with only a keyboard lead to what is one of the most soulful Tiny Desk performances of all time. The set is opened with T-Pain’s biggest hit “Buy U A Drank (Shawnty Snappin’),” and the arrangement of the song was a beautiful surprise to viewers.
Last summer, Lizzo stepped behind the Tiny Desk in the middle of her epic year. Her performance was extraordinary. Her band perfectly complimented her powerful vocals. But among her epic 3 song set list_–which includes “Cuz I Love You,” “Truth Hurts,” and “Juice”– her attitude and sense of humor showed through, making it a fun and hilarious watch.
If you’re looking for an emotional 12 1/2 minute video to get you through the day, then look no farther then Phoebe Bridgers’ Tiny Desk Concert. Filmed in 2017 coming off the release of her album Stranger in the Alps, Bridgers’ performance perfectly captures the intimacy and vulnerability she displays throughout the album perfectly.
Amidst their massive tour across North America this past summer, the Jonas Brothers made a stop behind the desk to play some songs from their triumphant comeback album Happiness Begins. They performed “Sucker,” “I Believe,” and “Only Human” in some interesting, stripped back arrangements. They even picked up some children’s toys from the desk and incorporated them into their performance of “Only Human,” which added a pretty hilarious touch to the song.
Following her Grammy sweep in 2017, Maren Morris stopped by NPR for her Tiny Desk Concert. She celebrated her beloved debut album Hero by playing “Rich,” “I Could Use A Love Song,” and “My Church.” Her strong vocals stood tall against the two guitar and bass arrangements for each song. It’s one of her best performances vocally and goes to show that she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her musicianship.
Following the release of Swimming, Mac Miller performed some songs from the critically acclaimed record for the Tiny Desk series. It was interesting to see Miller in a new element outside of his comfort zone. He performed new arrangements of “Small Worlds,” “What’s the Use? (Ft. Thundercat),” and “2009” that set a really nice, laid back vibe (if that’s what you’re searching for).
This Tiny Desk Performance by Bleachers is a real gift. Bleachers is usually a band that performs with such vigor and energy, but their performance from 2017 that features just 3 members of the band (Jack Antonoff on vocals and keys, Evan Smith on vocals, keys, and saxophone, and Mikey Hart on vocals and piano) gives a whole new feel and meaning behind the band’s music. The stripped back versions of these songs from Gone Now keep the integrity of the songs intact, while allowing viewers to still hear new details they may not have caught before.
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