Some soul-lifting, awe-inspiring, smile-inducing music performed by chanteuses behind a crowded office table? Yes, please
In the middle of a crisis, it seems sources of joy are far and few. There’s bad news here, the questionable decisions of a government there—but thankfully, we’ll always have little pockets of happiness and relief and really fucking good music to turn to. One such oasis: NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.
Tiny Desk’s origins date back to 2008, but the backstories go a little further beyond that. The name, for instance, comes from musician-slash-host-slash-tastemaker Bob Boilen’s 1970s band, Tiny Desk Unit. The show itself, however, was birthed on a whim when Boilen, who was hosting NPR’s music spin-off show All Songs Considered, attended a South by Southwest with Stephen Thompson. Frustrated that they couldn’t hear the performer’s voice over the basketball game playing in the same bar, Boilen invited her to perform in their office instead. With a camera, a couple of microphones and a bare-shelved, real life office to set the scene, the Tiny Desk Concerts became a reality.
Twelve years later, a cramped office space—often too small to contain large bands and larger instruments, has become synonymous with musical discovery. Still rooted in its raw, unadulterated approach to performances, these Tiny Desk Concerts continue to break down that manicured wall that exists between audiences and musicians. No million-dollar music videos. No fancy effects. No picture-perfect performances. Just inspired artists and honest-to-god good music.
Beyond a celebration of song and sound and artists we already know and love, the series has become a platform for discovery. By spotlighting a diverse range of genres, guesting legends and relatively undiscovered acts alike, Tiny Desk and its stripped-back approach to performance has cultivated some of the best mini concerts the digital space has seen—possibly ever. Some soulful, some stuff-of-pop-legend levels of good, some downright jazzy, many of them by women—all of whom are powerful and talented and uplifting in their own ways.
I’m going to try and wrap this up before I run out of adjectives, so in a nutshell, we’re all in need of a little slice of hope and a good time. In time for Women’s month and in the midst of a disheartening crisis, we hope to give you just that. From here, a roundup of our favorite NPR Tiny Desk Concerts by female artists:
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Carly Rae Jepsen
Let’s hear it for the women. In case you missed it, we’re celebrating badass gals all month long, starting with our March cover girl, Bela Padilla.
Art Alex Lara