Code Switch Staffers Pick Their Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts

Nov 19, 2020

For Tiny Desk Playlists, we ask musicians, creators and folks we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they've come to love. For this edition, the team of Code Switch joins us.

• I absolutely love Raphael Saadiq and have since his Tony! Toni! Tone! days. The man does not get the credit he deserves, imho. So, of course, I'm going to shout out his very first Tiny Desk appearance where he shows up dressed-to-impress in a vintage-inspired black suit and matching horn-rimmed glasses. With help from Rob Bacon on acoustic guitar, Saadiq regales the audience with hits from his retro-soul album, The Way I See It. This is my go-to Tiny Desk concert when I'm feeling blue, which has been happening more often during the pandemic. By the end of the video I'm singing along to "Sure Hope You Mean It" and doing those "yeah, yeahs" at the top of my lungs. —Shereen Marisol Meraji, host/senior producer

Sudan Archives: This is just a gorgeous, gorgeous performance and I can't believe how lush it sounds – the string quartet arrangement is fully sublime. I missed seeing it live in the office, which I was sad about, but then I really regretted it when we packed up to start working from home like, the very next day. —Jess Kung, production assistant

• The one that springs to mind immediately is Lizzo, last August. I am normally very happy to be based at NPR West, but I did have a pang of envy watching this. From her infectious good cheer ("this is a tiny damn desk — I can barely get one of my thighs under here!") to her rapport with the audience — who she got to sing backup — Lizzo turned it up. Whenever I have a blah day, I get her on my screen and watch her sing, joke and charm a baby (the youngest audience member) — and all if a sudden, I'm feeling good as hell. —Karen Grigsby Bates, senior correspondent

• My favorite Tiny Desk was Natalia Lafourcade. She came in the fall, but her concert sounded like pure summer. And, in a moment both charming and humiliating, she encouraged the NPR audience to sing along as if we were "very in love with somebody." (Her assessment of how we did: "...Más o menos así.") —Leah Donnella, editor

• My favorite Tiny Desk concert ever was T-Pain in 2014. It was the first time I've heard him without Auto-Tune and man he is soooo talented without Auto-Tune. —Alyssa Jeong Perry, producer

• As a kid I was a religious fan of Making the Band 3, and I followed the Danity Kane from their conception to their deterioration. So I was pumped for to watch DAWN's Tiny Desk concert in person. She was hanging around the Tiny Desk area before the concert began, and I almost didn't realize it was her because she was acting super casual and personable with her surroundings. I definitely had a "OMG that's her!" moment. I knew she was a great singer from MTB, but watching her sing her own stuff, it sounded like shooting the s*** with my friends and plotting to end the patriarchy put into beautiful melodies. Her back up singers were also absolute stars, and the way they interacted with each other made me feel light and hopeful. It's the little things that make the big difference! —Kumari Devarajan, production assistant

Dan Deacon stands out in my mind because of how interconnected I felt with everyone there. He started out with a simple meditation to bring us all into the present moment. Then, before we knew it, we were all dancing and moving together as one organism. We left our professional shells and became spiritual beings, intertwined and aware of just how similar we all are. I really miss that feeling, especially now with the pandemic and having to work from home. I was also nerding out real hard when I noticed he rigged up our upright piano to some wires and controlled it digitally like an animatronic! —LA Johnson, art director

Jamila Woods is one of my favorite artists, hands down, so it's no surprise that I cried while watching her Tiny Desk. I got to attend the live recording back in 2017, thanks to an intern friend who brought me along as a guest, and I will never forget her incredible stage presence: both serene and commanding, smiling yet serious. Her voice was — and still is — a balm for every ailment, and I'm grateful she exists in the world. —Natalie Escobar, assistant editor

Tiny Desks In This Playlist

• Raphael Saadiq (read more)
• Sudan Archives (read more)
• Lizzo (read more)
• Natalia Lafourcade (read more)
• T-Pain (read more)
• DAWN (read more)
• Dan Deacon (read more)
• Jamila Woods (read more)

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