“WTF IS A TINY DESK?”

Image via YouTube

Earlier this week, Post Malone graced NPR’s ‘Tiny Desk’ live series with an vulnerable unplugged performance of four new and old songs, just after everyone’s favorite chef wrestler rapper Action Bronson also visited the popular concert series recently. And so have the likes of Dua Lipa, Khruangbin, Usher, Alt-J or Shaggy featuring Sting (!), which is only a fraction of the 800+ concerts the show has already blessed music connaisseurs with since it first started in 2008.

The formula has been simple from the beginning: A live audience and the backdrop of a packed-yet-cozy office space, which leaves the carefully curated artists from the most diverse genres with just enough space for nothing but a few instruments and their songs. This, along with a lack of pyro effects, dancing choreographies and anything gimmicky, strips any artist down to their essence. So much in fact, that even a stadium-outselling Posty couldn’t stop emphasizing how excited and nervous he was to be on the show.

In celebration of the hopefully never-ending array of Tiny Desks, here’s to five exceptional performances – including the titular hero/es and some you probably haven’t seen yet. That’s due to the other strength of the show: Tiny Disk has always served as an ideal platform for unearthing intriguing and unfamiliar talents (and luckily still does).

Tyler, the Creator

In case you didn’t know: Tyler, the Creator takes his art very serious. So much in fact, that he brought a special light design to his Tiny Desk nighttime set, a first for the program, and illuminated the makeshift stage in deep blue, fuchsia and orange for an intimate performance of his ‘Flower Boy‘ album songs ‘Boredom‘, ‘See You Again‘ and ‘Glitter‘. Outstanding, musically and visually.

Tash Sultana

Eternity? Flying through the milky way (not the chocolate-covered one; the one in space)? Pure natural ecstasy? The connotations of Tash Sultana’s dreamy and reverb-loaded music are as endless as it literally sounds, and their Tiny Desk session perfectly captures how much joy the Australian multi-instrumentalist gets out of stacking up atmospheric layers via hypnotic loop-style performances that defy any genre.

Juvenile

One of the most celebrated Tiny Desk gigs in recent times happened because the people have spoken. And by ‘people’, we mean ‘Juvenile fans’: The New Orleans rapper only found out that Tiny Desk existed when his fans were already urging the latter via Twitter to invite Juve. What followed was a puzzled “Wtf is a tiny desk” by Juvenile, 10.000 retweets by his fans, and consequently a hit-ladden show under the musical lead of the Hot Boys’ old companion Mannie Fresh.

Giving their catalogue a whole new read, the dynamic duo performed hits from Juve’s solo career and the Hot Boys era with a live-band for the first time ever. Also thanks to guests like Jon Batiste and Trombone Shorty, the whole 28 minutes of infectious Cash Money Records tracks serve as a perfect reminder that under all those artificial Pen and Pixel covers, the music never was a gimmick. Bonus points for the most dedicated live audience a Tiny Desk has probably ever seen.

Yasmin Williams

Some of music’s biggest stars frequent the Tiny Desk office these days, but what made it popular enough to do so in the first place, is its reputation for finding new talents and offering them a stage. The lockdown-home performance of Yasmin Williams perfectly proves this, and even if you never thought that a finger-style guitarist (and a lot of cool tools we hadn’t heard of before either) might excite you: Prepare to be astonished by dancing fingers and catchy melodies by the Virginia artist who was recently listed amongst Pitchfork’s “25 New and Rising Artists Shaping the Future of Music in 2023”.

Mac Miller

At just 26 years old, the late Mac Miller delivered one of the most memorable Tiny Desk sessions ever. Not only because it was one of his last appearances before his untimely passing. But because every second of the set, that has Mac switching between absentminded chuckles with his band to musical maestro in the blink of an eye, showcases the impressive range that Mac’s artistry had already gotten to. And because of ‘2009’:

While the rest of the set is rather boisterous, the show’s last song gives listeners a first-row seat in the mind of Mac Miller, where ‘demons that’s as big as my house’ leave him questioning his ways. And while it feels bitter-sweet to hear how the rapper – backed by a piano loop and a string quartet – looked back on his life, just like countless fans did shortly after, the melancholia goes hand in hand with hope on ‘2009’. He said it best himself during the set: “It’s a beautiful thing, man. Music is a beautiful thing.”

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