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Here are five of the best NPR Tiny Desk Concerts

In 2008, NPR producer Bob Boilen started an intimate video series called “NPR Tiny Desk Concert” to feature his favorite artists and performers. Since then, the video series has become a beloved favorite by many on YouTube, seeing various musicians such as Taylor Swift and Megan Thee Stallion take over its studio.

Recently, the series celebrated its 1,000th show in September, so in honor of that, here are five of the best NPR Tiny Desk Concerts:

Jon Batiste 

In 2019, Jon Batiste stopped by NPR’s studio in Washington, D.C. to play four songs, “Cry,” “Coltrane,” “Tell The Truth” and “I Need You.” Instead of performing with his usual late-night house band, Batiste showcased an all-female band, including Endea Owens on acoustic bass, Negah Santos on percussion, Sarah Thawer on drums and Celisse Henderson on guitar and vocals. The singer’s set was powerful, his lyrics inspiring and poetic, allowing viewers to see his immense talent and reliability, especially during a year of political turmoil in the United States.

Alicia Keys

Right before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alicia Keys made a guest appearance at the Tiny Desk, playing to an excited crowd on Feb. 12, 2020. The singer’s peaceful presence allowed for a sense of calm to linger throughout the room, evident as she sang songs such as “Show Me Love” and “Underdog.” The standout of her performance by far was when Keys sang “Gramercy Park,” a song about fighting your inner doubts and struggles with appeasing the people around you. After this song, Keys admitted to her own battles with appeasing others, making the performance one where the singer was able to open up and be herself, even in a room full of strangers.

Soccer Mommy

Recently, Soccer Mommy performed at NPR’s studio, which was long overdue after her scheduled Tiny Desk performance was moved to a virtual setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Telling the audience, “We’re finally doing it,” in regards to an in-person show, Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy truly brought the magic of her latest album, “Sometimes, Forever,” to life. Taking listeners on a sonic joyride with songs such as “Shotgun,” “circle the drain” and “newdemo,” the band finally got the moment they’ve been waiting for after three years of turmoil. 


Around the same time as Jon Batiste’s show, Lizzo also stopped by NPR to promote her new album at the time, “Cuz I Love You,” bringing her high energy and humor to the live audience. Dressed in an iconic neon orange dress and high ponytail, the singer wasn’t afraid to belt in the small space, evident with songs such as “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts.” What made this performance so memorable was also Lizzo’s flute-playing abilities, bringing out her prized instrument during “Juice” to wow fans. With jokes and laughter in between each song, Lizzo showed that you can still be a talented person without taking yourself too seriously.

Taylor Swift

Obviously, when Taylor Swift agrees to do a Tiny Desk concert, you have to rank it pretty high. After completing a stadium tour for her 2017 album “reputation” just a year before, Swift shocked fans with a surprise show in 2019, playing songs from albums such as “Lover” and “Red.” The singer’s grace and sense of humor exemplified her ability to play for fans at any level, not afraid to be vulnerable and outspoken with just herself and a guitar. With fans crowding around Swift, it was an iconic moment in her career, and one that many Swifties will continue to beg her to do again.


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