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Over the years, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series has become an iconic platform for artists to showcase their talents in an intimate setting.
From up-and-coming acts to established stars, the series has featured a diverse range of artists from all genres, including Phoebe Bridgers, Boards Of Canada, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk, Radiohead, Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, Dr. Dre, Marvin Gaye, and R.E.M.
These artists have graced the Tiny Desk stage with their incredible performances, leaving an indelible mark on the series and music lovers alike.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the top 12 best Tiny Desk Concerts of all time, featuring soulful ballads, high-energy rock, and everything in between. These performances are a testament to the power of music and the magic of the Tiny Desk Concert series, which has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right.
So, join us as we take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most unforgettable performances in the history of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
This set was recorded only a month before Mac Miller sadly departed this world and it’s the only live set of his album Swimming that survives him. It’s a deeply personal performance that really shows the thoughtful side of Mac as a musician and songwriter.
This is a real testament to Ty Dolla $ign’s ability to create a world class performance out of nothing. This was one of the first “home” Tiny Desk Concert sets and it’s brilliant. There’s so much energy and joy in this performance, you won’t be able to resist it. Watch on YouTube
This super jazzy set from the UK artist to showcase his three favorite songs from the album Geography has won him fans from around the world. The jamming with Braxton cook in this set is out of this world and who doesn’t love lashings of saxophone? Watch on YouTube
If you’re looking for a TIny Desk Concert with standout audio quality then this set from H.E.R is incredible. And her backing vocalists really add something fresh and exciting to the mix. Watch on YouTube
OK, you might not expect these two artists to have that much in common, heck, not even the generations of their listeners. But once you hit their “Englisman (and Jamaican) in New York” then you’ll know how good this can be. Watch on YouTube
A full five tracks from Ungodly Hour and this is a truly magical performance from Chloe X Halle. We can’t wait to hear more from them in the future. Watch on YouTube
There has never been and may never be a concert on the Tiny Desk scene like this one and it is the most viewed Tiny Desk Concert of all time. There’s so much charm and charisma in this performance that it would take a very hard heart, indeed, not to love it. Watch on YouTube
Paul Janeaway infuses this set with so much energy that it’s hard not to feel the hairs on your arms go up at times. And the slower ending to the set is simply sublime. Watch on YouTube
The “godfather of autotune” turned on the magic to show the world that it’s not his voice that sucks, he uses autotune as an extra way to distinguish himself. His unedited performance is slamming and “Drankin’ Patna” totally stands out as the best moment of the set. Watch on YouTube
As you’d expect from Chika, she’s a commanding presence in her own set and this is one of the most melodious sounds you’ll ever hear. It’s a really memorable concert for all the right reasons. Watch on YouTube
Covid-19 put an end to the Tiny Desk Concerts in the studios but it didn’t stop artists from building their own Tiny Desk Concerts at home and this set from Jacob Collier is amazing. “All I Need” is the classic track but it’s the brand new “He Won’t Hold You” that demands your attention. Watch on YouTube
This short tour of what makes Tash Sultana is immense, her multi-instrument talents shine through and this “one person band” is absolutely amazing. Watch on YouTube
These are our picks for the best of the Tiny Desk Concerts, but truthfully, you can’t really go wrong with any of these concerts.
It’s well worth spending an afternoon or two exploring the NPR YouTube channel to check out more of them.