A few little pockets of the internet bring me endless joy. The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen era was quality entertainment. It’s a shame what happened, but I miss it daily. Crash Course might be why I have a high school and college diploma. But I don’t think anything comes close to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. Man, what I would give to be invited to one. Doesn’t matter who it is, I want to go to one. But there are so many at this point, so here are my top Tiny Desk Concerts.
Okay, before I get to the good stuff, I need to talk about the Tiny Desk Concerts that are so freaking good but don’t quite make my list. There are so many to choose from that any of these concerts could move up into my top-tier list, depending on how I feel that day.
- Hozier – Great set with an incredible voice. I enjoyed his concert, but I loved the others more. (Best Song: “Cherry Wine”)
- Post Malone – I love Post Malone, and his concert only makes me want a country album from him even more. Plus, anytime someone brings a string section to their concert, you know it will be great. (Best Song: “Lemonade”)
- Snoh Aalegra – I LOVE Snoh Aalegra. I LOVE LOVE LOVE her music so much. But she needs to release more music. Please and thank you. (Best Song: “Find Someone Like You”)
- Giveon – Same as Snoh Aalegra. It’s a great set, but he doesn’t have a lot of music to pick from, so it lacks in-depth music choice. (Best Song: “The Beach”)
- Chance the Rapper – Who doesn’t like Chance the Rapper? His Tiny Desk Concert is so good, but it would have been better if it was more than two songs. I see what he was going for with reciting a poem, but I wanted another song. (Best Song: “Juke Jam”)
My Top Tiny Desk Concerts
Chris Stapleton has such a simple yet powerful set. It’s him, his wife, and his guitar. And you can feel the love between the two of them. This Tiny Desk Concert feels like an invasion of their privacy in the best way possible. They aren’t singing to the audience but to each other, and we happen to be there. It’s such a joy to watch that I go back to it occasionally for fun. Chris Stapleton might be the main attraction of the video, but his wife, Morgane, is what sets this concert apart from the others in honorable mentions. She knows her husband’s voice so well they meld into one.
Best Song: “More of You”
Jazmine Sullivan is so underrated. She is an absolute queen, and I’m so glad she finally got her Grammy. (Two to be exact!) I used to listen to Jazmine Sullivan much more, but this Tiny Desk re-sparked my love for her. And before you say anything, her concert is part of the Home editions that happened during COVID, but if you think the quality of her performance would be any different in NPR’s office, then you are kidding yourself.
Best Song: “Let It Burn”
I’m so mad at myself that I missed Dermot Kennedy coming to Portland earlier this year. His voice is everything I wish I sounded like when I sang. (Unfortunately, I sound like a dying goat). Dermot Kennedy is one of the few artists who sounds the same live and on his studio recordings. Most people fail to shine when they sing their music live. Or, at the very least, it doesn’t hit the same level for me, but Dermot Kennedy does. His Tiny Desk Concert feeds my soul; I will see him live someday.
Best Song: “Moments Passed” (Glory is a close second, but his first Song in his set set the tone.)
4. Mac Miller
R.I.P. to someone we lost way too soon.
Trying to articulate how good this Tiny Desk Concert is is hard. It was amazing when it first dropped, but after Mac Miller’s death, this concert became even more meaningful. It’s a little piece of him doing something he loved and having a blast doing it. It’s beloved and treasured so dearly that NPR released a vinyl of this Tiny Desk Concert. Good luck getting your hands on a copy of it now, but if you did pre-order it consider me jealous.
Best Song: “What’s the Use?” Feat. Thundercat
Did anyone else know that H.E.R. stands for Having Everything Revealed? No, just me? Okay, cool. I love H.E.R. so much. She has been in my top five most-played artists in the last few years. What I didn’t know was how much of a real musician she was. It’s one thing to be a singer/songwriter and another to be all that and play instruments like they are an extension of your body. I can barely walk and chew gum without tripping over myself, so to see H.E.R. singing while killing it on the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and piano only elevates her concert even higher in my eyes.
Best Song: “Focus”
Not that T-Pain needed it, but his Tiny Desk Concert must have felt so validating. Or should I say, the reaction to his Tiny Desk Concert must have felt so validating? All the auto-tune hate he received throughout his career was for nothing. The man can sing. It’s no secret that he knows how to write an absolute banger of a song, but to hear him sing live and crush it like he did was such a surprise. I love T-Pain. I don’t think that there is anyone from the ages of 24 to 38 who doesn’t like T-Pain. Only T-Pain, in his Tiny Desk Concert, can make a song about a stripper feel like a love song to dance to at your wedding.
Best Song: “Buy U A Drank”
Dear Yebba, if you’re reading this, I love you. Okay, enough with the fangirling. Yebba’s Tiny Desk Concert is the best one, and it’s not close. She takes me to church and feeds my soul with her voice. Her Tiny Desk Concert only proves to me more and more that I need a live album from her. Her recorded music is awesome, but when she sings them live, it’s always somehow better. They remain the same songs in sound and spirit, but she elevates them to new heights. She somehow combines country, R&B, and jazz seamlessly. I love her and want more music from here, but that’s me being greedy.
Best Song: Her whole set. Asking me to pick a favorite is like asking a Midwest Mom to pick her favorite kid. (“All I Ever Wanted” barely inches out the others. And I mean just barely.)
And if you’re curious about any other weird or random topics we’ve ranked in the past, here is my crowing achievement of a tier list.