For those who don’t know, NPR Music sponsors a video-concert series called Tiny Desk, where popular and underground musicians of any genre are invited to perform a mini-concert hosted by Bob Boilen, of the “All Songs Considered” radio show. The music played is raw, uncut and truly something special to watch. If you’re looking for a way to add new and exciting music to your Spotify playlists, here are some of my personal favorite performances to get you started on your Tiny Desk binge-watching spree:
- Daniel Caesar: June 4th, 2018
Caesar’s album Freudian sparked widespread success at the very start of his career and this concert plainly exemplifies his undeniable talent as a vocalist. Leaning on a piano and holding nothing but the voice inside him, Daniel Caesar will captivate you with his mesmerizing range. This setlist includes: “Japanese Denim,” “Get You,” and “Best Part.” The contemporary R&B band behind him exudes that particular brand of neo-soul style that has become Caesar’s staple. Make sure to stay until the end in order to see the epic fusion of voices between Daniel Caesar and H.E.R. on their shared track “Best Part.” You’ll want to watch this one over and over again; it’s the pure musical honey your tea’s been needing, trust me.
- Jim James: October 26th, 2018
Jim James is the lead singer of the independent rock group out of Kentucky, My Morning Jacket. For this concert, James decided to perform one song off MMJ’s critically acclaimed Evil Urges (“I’m Amazed”), and two songs off his newest solo albums Uniform Clarity, and Eternally Even (“Same Old Lie” and “Over and Over”). Choosing a rather politically charged selection of songs, James is all in for this powerful performance. With guitar in hand, James cries out for justice, for change and for unity in a nation that’s in need of a little melodic healing.
- Yo-Yo Ma: August 17th, 2018
Yo-Yo Ma has been playing the cello since he was 4 years old. Now at the age of 58, he has decided to grace the Tiny Desk studio in order to promote his latest album. Yo-Yo Ma returns to the “Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello” by Johann Sebastian Bach, which he attributes to being the music that kick-started his love for the cello. The setlist includes: “Prelude from Suite No. 1,” “Sarabande from Suite No. 6,” and “Gigue from Suite No. 3.” Listen as he describes the meaning these beautiful works have had in all aspects of his life from weddings to funerals. And his instrumentation will speak for itself; there’s no need to wonder how he came to be arguably the most celebrated cellist in the world.
- Noname: April 3rd, 2017
Noname is a soulful hip-hop artist native to Chicago. She raps in such a creative and poetic style, it’s nearly impossible to resist her unapologetically honest lyrics. Her powerfully crafted setlist includes: “Diddy Bop,” “Reality Check/Casket Pretty/Bye Bye Baby” medley and “Yesterday” all off of her first album, Telefone. Through every song, you can hear Noname gracefully weaving in and out of scrambled lyrics until they’re laced together in gorgeous harmony. Her raps shine a light on many of society’s injustices while still managing to show us, through the use of her optimistic melodies and talented band, the beauty that comes from the tragedies in life. “Let’s heal the world guys, with vulnerability.”
- Mac Miller: August 6th, 2018
Performing only songs off his newest album, Swimming, the late rapper performs a three-song setlist including: “Small Worlds,” “What’s the Use?” and “2009.” With this performance, Miller is the voice of a young man who’s reflecting on the ups and downs of his life. Watch Miller as he raps in his pure element; immersed in a room full of nothing but his music and his truth. The snapshot of an unquestionably talented artist, gone too soon, leaving us desperate for a deeper glimpse we’ll never get into the music of his mind.
Stephanie Tkaczyk is a senior majoring in Kinesiology who enjoys stressing herself out by taking unnecessary writing classes in order to satisfy her creative side. She loves listening to, talking about and finding new music more than anything, in addition to traveling to every place on the planet and spending time with other people who watch too many movies. You can follow her on Instagram @hotsteph24.