Miss Live Music? Here are the 10 Best Tiny Desk Concerts For Quarantined Music Lovers
Remember when people used to gather in large, unmasked crowds and listen to live music together? Yeah, me neither. It’s been forever since I enjoyed the thrill of hearing my favorite artists perform their songs live. I don’t know when we’ll feel safe enough to attend music festivals, concerts, open mics, or Broadway musicals again, even with the vaccine starting to be administered. In the meantime, Tiny Desk Concerts can give us our concert fix.
Tiny Desk Concerts are short, stripped-down shows performed in the NPR Music office at the “tiny desk” of All Songs Considered creator and host Bob Boilen. Since 2008, these concerts have provided viewers with intimate performances from mainstream artists like Coldplay and Alicia Keys, as well as niche artists across different genres. In 2020, NPR Music introduced a series of at-home concerts, consistently providing listeners with a way to explore music from various artists and genres during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watching these videos can’t exactly replicate the experience of going to a concert, but it’s a great option for those who enjoy listening to live music and hearing artists speak candidly about their work. So pop in your headphones or blast your speakers and enjoy these 10 Tiny Desk Concerts (in no particular order):
10. Maren Morris
Fresh off her 2017 Grammy win for Best Country Solo Performance, Maren Morris delights viewers with her gritty voice and feel-good tunes. Morris seems laid-back in this mini-concert, effortlessly belting out flavorful country-pop melodies brimming with attitude. Although country music isn’t for everyone, Morris has a way of making you glad you gave the genre a chance.
9. Lila Iké
Jamaican singer Lila Iké performs four songs off her debut album, The Experience, in this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, and it’s a whole vibe. Illuminated by neon lights, the color-changing room helps Iké communicate a variety of moods in a single space. Crank up this concert and fill your home with Iké’s addictive vibrato and R&B-infused reggae jams.
8. Taylor Swift
In this Tiny Desk Concert, Taylor Swift offers a glimpse into her creative process as a singer-songwriter. Swift’s lyrics are often witty and relatable, and her songs have captivated audiences for years. Her voice is raw and honest in this stripped-down performance, paving the way for her folksy quarantine releases, Folklore and Evermore.
7. Lake Street Drive
When you listen to Lake Street Dive, you hear a little bit of the blues, a little Americana, and a little jazz. Their song “How Good It Feels” will likely remind you of your time in quarantine; it probably felt good to be alone at first, but now you’re longing to be with friends and family again. Until then, enjoy this concert from the skilled musicians and songwriters of Lake Street Dive.
6. Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish’s voice is like a memory of a past lover; it’s tender, fragile, and maybe even heartbreaking. But the somber exterior of her pensive songs is deceiving; “my future” and “everything i wanted” convey both hope and intimacy, respectively. Eilish’s older brother and frequent collaborator, Finneas, accompanies her in this moving performance.
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5. Natalia Lafourcade
Natalia Lafourcade blesses our ears with her sweet voice in this enchanting Tiny Desk Concert. Lafourcade’s heartfelt songs and charming personality will make you fall in love with her brand of Mexican folk music. Let her voice whisk you away to the salty sea air and soft sandy beaches of Veracruz (one can only dream in quarantine).
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Taimane, a ukulele virtuosa hailing from Hawai’i, is completely in her element during this Tiny Desk Concert. She is alluring to watch, her fingers flying across the ukulele frets with unmatched speed, precision, and beauty. Taimane’s unique musical style is shaped by multiple genres, including classical music, heavy metal, and Cuban music.
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3. Jhené Aiko
Donning an elegant seafoam gown, Jhené Aiko delivers clean vocals in this quarantine concert. Her delicate R&B sound is enhanced by her band, which includes a harpist and, quite uniquely, Aiko herself playing “singing bowls” meant to promote healing. The warm, deep vibrations emitted from these bowls perfectly complement Aiko’s mellow presence, making this a relaxing experience for listeners.
2. Lianne La Havas
There are a million ways I could describe Lianne La Havas’s voice: rich, textured, airy, buttery, velvety, celestial. Her performance of “What You Don’t Do” is flirtatious and fun, while her breathtaking song “Unstoppable” elevates you to the heavens. If you love this video, check out Lianne La Havas’s recent Tiny Desk Concert from home.
In this soulful set of hit songs, British powerhouse Adele flaunts her incredible vocal range and flawless runs. The acoustic setting allows Adele to shine, showcasing her ability to stir up our emotions with every note sung. Although Adele’s concert is nine years old, it is still one of the most popular videos on NPR Music’s YouTube channel.
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With over 800 Tiny Desk Concerts on YouTube, NPR Music has plenty of great music to explore. Here’s to discovering new music and finding comfort in the old in 2021.
–Maya Santos, Content Creator