Watching one of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts is truly one of the most personal ways to connect with one of your favorite artists. To see their artistry at such a raw and acoustic level is an experience that is so cathartic, it’s no question that these concerts are so popular. Not only do you get to hear some of your favorite songs in an acoustic setting, but you get to experience the personality of your artists as they engage with their audience in such an intimate way. As an avid fan of tuning into these concerts the second they are posted, I have narrowed down my list of favorites to a top five.
There is something about Lizzo belting in a quiet and acoustic setting that just feels so right. Her concert is absolutely show-stopping. The sheer power of her voice is enough to keep you captivated the entire time. That, matched with her unapologetically outgoing personality made this concert particularly magical. She not only engages with, in her words, the “tiny ass desk,” but also the viewers at home. Her energy, presence and commitment to this show proves that she goes all out regardless of the venue, and this has got to become a part of your youtube binge lineup ASAP.
- Florence + the Machine
Prepare to be transported to a literal fairy tale when watching this next concert. Lead singer Florence Welch is such a unique artist in her ability to create an environment outside of reality with her voice alone. Supplementing that with not only acoustic guitars but a harp made this performance immaculate. Her voice is such a gift. To see it stripped down to such a raw setting demonstrates how special her artistry is. Her energy is reminiscent of that of an angel. You truly feel like you are listening to sounds that are beyond our world during this concert. The band commands the room with such a subtle yet ever present power full of poetry and melodic sound. This is truly a concert for those looking for something special than the typical sound of musicians, and it deserves a space in the top five.
Lead singer of Paramore, Hayley Williams, once again proves she is not human. Her ability to sound flawless while singing live is matched only by Paramore’s signature spunk. This is artistry at its finest. Williams engages with the audience going so far as encouraging them to both sing and dance along. They start their set with “Hard Times,” a groovy techno song that has everyone in the band dancing along. The next song, “26,” is simply angelic. A somber song discussing struggles with mental health is articulated in such an intimate way by Hayley Williams and lead guitarist Taylor York. Be forewarned: prepare the water works for this one. They end their set with the dynamic “Fake Happy.” This concert is incredible not only because of the unwavering perfection from the band’s sound, but the unparalleled vocal ability of Hayley Williams. Trust me on this one.
- Mac Miller
The vibes served in this tiny desk concert are immaculate. Mac Miller, dressed in his signature “Don’t Trip” hat, creates a magical atmosphere that brings you out of reality and into a dream-like trance clinging onto each lyric. The singer doesn’t stutter and is accompanied by incredible acoustics that have you involuntarily head-bobbing. The best part of the video, however, is how much fun Miller seems to be having. His commentary in between songs and engagement with bandmates is reminiscent of a childlike innocence where they purely seem to be having fun. There is no agenda besides conveying his pure artistry. He sings some of the lesser known songs that give the audience a different type of performance from Miller. Beginning the video with “Small Worlds” started the harmonious environment in the NPR studio. He rounds out the concert with the electric “What’s the Use” and our favorite, “2009.” This performance is truly incredible. There are not enough words to convey its brilliance, so I guess I’ll be frank- watch it. Only then will you truly understand why it deserves a spot in the top five Tiny Desk Concerts.
- Harry Styles
Do I even have to justify why Harry Styles deserves the number one spot on my ranking of Tiny Desk Concerts? I will anyways. Harry’s smile holds 50 percent of the real estate in my head after watching this performance. His charm, charisma and stage presence are just some of the reasons this video is a standout performance from the get go. Joined by an incredible crew of musicians and backup singers made Styles’ performance next level. The harmonies are godly, the sound is therapeutic and the vibes are immaculate. He starts his set with an acoustic version of “Cherry.” These songs are performed in a way that makes them feel brand new. The stripped down versions give Styles so much opportunity to shine vocally. The banter in between songs makes the singer feel like your best friend. He has such an innocence about him that makes audiences want to protect him at all costs. He then performs “Watermelon Sugar” after noting the humour behind performing at a desk. “It just feels like you’re in the way,” he jokes. The next song he performs, “To Be So Lonely,” is a groovy song with some adorable choreography of Styles spinning around in his stool. The singer engages with his bandmates and gives credit where credit is due. This is not just a one man show and Styles makes that apparent. He closes the set with the hit single “Adore You.” This song is elevated to a new level in this performance. His backup singers Ny Oh and Sarah Jones complemented his voice so beautifully. The full belt of the chorus in the final verse was the climax we all needed to leave this video more than satisfied. This concert is truly an experience not just for the Harry Styles fans, but for all people who love music. Prepare to be wrapped up in the camaraderie, joy and admiration of this concert, and you’ll soon figure out why it deserves the number one spot on this list.
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