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The Best Tiny Desk Concerts: Exploring the Most Memorable Performances on NPR.

Kono Vidovic March 7, 2023 1819 8 5

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The Tiny Desk Concert series is a popular music program produced by NPR and features popular artists and their music. This program aims to bring music and art to the public, by inviting performers to play their music in a desk-sized concert setting. The concerts are recorded and then shared with the public through the Tiny Desk YouTube channel, where millions of music fans have tuned in to see some of the greatest artists on earth perform in an intimate setting. Today we are going to look at some of the best Tiny Desk concerts.

Anderson Paak
Anderson .Paak’s Tiny Desk concert is the most popular video in the series.

What is Tiny Desk? An Introduction to the Tiny Desk Concert Series.

Recently we featured a list of the best Boiler Room sets which is similar to Tiny Desk concerts but in another setting with different artists. The Tiny Desk Concert series has produced some of the most memorable musical performances of the last decade. From jazz, to rock, to hip-hop, the series has featured a diverse range of genres and artists, giving viewers a chance to discover new music and enjoy classic performances. Some of the most well-known performances include: Chance the Rapper’s Tiny Desk Concert, Lauryn Hill’s and Stevie Wonder’s best Tiny Desk Concert.

Exploring the Art of the Tiny Desk Concerts.

The Tiny Desk Concert series has become a platform for musicians to express themselves and create art with their performances. The series offers performers a unique opportunity to create an intimate setting where they can connect with their fans. Through its unique recording style, the series has been able to capture the essence of the artist’s performance, allowing viewers to experience the true beauty of their music. With its simple setup and production, the series has become a platform for artists to create meaningful performances that resonate with viewers.

24 Of The Best Tiny Desk Concert Performances.

At NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, we’ve seen some of the most talented and memorable musical performances. From Grammy Award-winning artists such as Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder to up-and-coming indie bands, the Tiny Desk Concerts have become a platform for musicians of all genres to express themselves in an intimate setting. At the core of our list is a focus on contemporary artists who bring forth fresh and innovative sounds, from soulful to jazzy to futuristic or even electronica. Our range of electronic music covers it all, this spectrum allows us to offer something for everyone, everywhere!

Therefore we’ve aimed to collect some of the best Tiny Desk Concerts performances focused on electronic music or come very close to what we love here at Dirty Disco. We listed some of the best electronic music below, so you can experience these memorable moments and discover more amazing music. Enjoy!

Tom Misch 2018 & 2020.

Tom Misch’s sets in 2018 and 2020 with Yussef Dayes at Tiny Desk were nothing short of remarkable and it should come as no surprise to those who have been following his career for the last couple of years. His beats are made for an audience, with drums slapping and funky guitars serving as the foundation for most of his songs. What really stood out during his performance was how incredibly talented he is on the guitar, every lick, strum and solo were performed with technical finesse and true artistry. Those in attendance were treated to a truly special musical experience!

Jordan Rakei 2020.

When it comes to artists we really love, Jordan Rakei is at the top of our list, so when he performed at Tiny Desk a few years ago, we were psyched! This is absolutely one of the best Tiny Desk concerts in our opinion. But with any production, things don’t always go smoothly, a serious music crisis when the Fender Rhodes they had rented didn’t have the right action. Luckily, a replacement was ordered and arrived just moments before their performance began and, oh man, did they deliver. Jordan Rakei and his band knocked it out of the park! Not only was there marvelously crafted soulful R&B but also a tantalizing hint of electronic music that make us squeal in delight; proving why he’s been a long-time favorite!

Bonobo 2022.

Music lovers are in for a special treat with legendary indie-electronica artist Bonobo’s stunning Tiny Desk concert. Taking over a warehouse in Nashville, the British-born and Los Angeles-based DJ has assembled his full band to bring captivating songs to life with their unique warmth. Known for his chilly yet minimalist electronica sound, this performance is a beautiful blend of digital and analog sounds accompanied by murmurs and captivating visuals. Get ready to be blown away as this special virtual concert takes us all on an unforgettable music journey!

Anderson Paak 2016.

Anderson .Paak’s is not so much of an electronic music artists even though there are electronic elements in his music, his steady rise to fame was a real success story. For years, he released mixtapes and singles until his debut album Venice in 2014 marked him out as an artist on the up. But it was early 2016 that catapulted him into the public consciousness with his appearances on Dr Dre’s Compton LP. Fresh from this exposure, .Paak dropped his breakthrough album Malibu, showcasing not only his impressive lyricism but also an incredibly invigorating vocal style inspired by the greats of 70s and 80s music. In addition to being an incredible artist perfect on the drum timing, Anderson .Paak is also a talented drummer-cum-bandleader who has swept audiences off their feet with his fiery performances. This is without a doubt one of the best Tiny Desk concerts.

Mac Miller 2018.

The late Mac Miller’s Tiny Desk performance was truly captivating and electric on stage as he kicked off his Tiny Desk performance with a three-song set. He transitioned seamlessly through each song, allowing the audience another peek into his creative process. The atmosphere shifted when he began performing tracks from his newly released album, Swimming. His boisterous demeanor gave way to reflective R&B, complete with a piano loop and a string quartet backing him up. As the chorus of “2009” echoed through the room after its first verse, you could see the young man begin to tug at the edges of life’s secrets. His eyes were clinched and chin was rubbed, indicating that he may already have uncovered some of life’s answers. It was an awe-inspiring performance from an artist who is beginning to come into full bloom.

Jorja Smith 2016.

When Jorja Smith who you most recently know for her (Rose Rouge cover from St Germain) and her band rolled up for their Tiny Desk Concert, it was a lucky thing that the skies had conspired against them, giving the office space a soft enlightenment. It’s an easy enough task for any lighting team to arrange the warm honey-hued teardrop light across the room but not many could come close to matching Jorja’s wonderful creation of mesmerizing music. Jorja Smith’s sultry voice filled the entire room while guitar strings and double-time drumming created an ambience of pure serenity. The musical collaboration was nothing short of captivating, leaving a lasting impression on all in attendance!

Thundercat 2017.

If you love funky futuristic soul music you must know this artist. Having released two extraordinary solo albums, Thundercat’s tireless efforts were finally rewarded when he was chosen to collaborate on Kendrick Lamar’s renowned To Pimp A Butterfly. Following the release of this masterpiece, The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam EP arrived shortly after and marked his most acclaimed work yet – Drunk – arriving just a few years later in 2017. When it came time for him to perform everyone had their hopes up high; understandably so, no one left disappointed!

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis 2012.

Ryan Lewis and Macklemore delighted everyone with their electronic music playlist set at this Tiny Desk Concert performance. The contrast between the playful song “Thrift Shop” and the more reflective song “Same Love” was masterfully done by producer Ryan Lewis, who showed his flair for the hook and his clever knack for melody and rapping. The audience was uplifted when they heard Ray Dalton’s soulful rendition of “Like the ceiling can’t hold us”. Everyone in the audience was treated to a unique performance as Macklemore ended up standing on top of the desk and shaking off the dust from the ceiling tiles.

Masego 2019.

Masego brought something special to the Tiny Desk in more ways than one! The artist who you also know for his collaborations with another TD performer “FKJ”. Not only did he show off his electronic music stylings, which included a five-song set that felt like it could be taken from a jam session playlist, he also included some surprise guests. He opened with his jazzy track “Tadow”, but not before having comedian Lorenzo Cromwell join him on mic for a quick prank. It’s electrifying performances such as this that make Masego a must-see artist and Tiny Desk performer.

FKJ 2022.

FKJ recently invited NPR to his home studio, where he put on an unforgettable one-man Tiny Desk Concert. The electronic music artist and multi-instrumentalist weaved his magical soundscapes, combining piano, saxophone, synths, drums and guitars, as he performed select songs from his freshly released album V I N C E N T, like “New Life” and “IHM”. He even included an improvised jam session that entranced the audience with fan favorites “TUI” and “Ylang Ylang”. Altogether, FKJ’s TD set was like a dream come true for electronic music lovers everywhere.

Toro y Moi 2019.

When Chaz Bear, affectionately known as Toro y Moi, took to the stage at the Tiny Desk concert and revealed his game-time decision to go acoustic rather than electronic, it was both a surprise and a delight. He didn’t miss out on any of the excitement, however; transforming electronic anthems like ‘Laws of the Universe’ into acoustically mesmerizing pieces. With his electronic style already established firmly with previous electronic masterpieces such as Outer Peace, he introduced fans to brand new iterations of their favorite songs in an acoustic environment. In typical Toro y Moi fashion, his set spanned an array of genres, from electronic music to EDM, and showcased his endlessly versatile talent for producing music with no bounds.

Florence + The Machine 2018.

Florence + The Machine has yet again proved her position as one of the most respected and talented performers in the music scene today! Between her hectic tour for High As Hope and all its many stops, she still found time to fit in a Tiny Desk Session for American NPR, on a day as gloomy as this one, it’s certainly worth checking out. Not only does she deliver two new songs (“June” and “Patricia”), but she also performs fan favorite “Ship To Wreck,” and incredibly enough, even managed to make room for her own harpist which is no small feat! Outstanding talent indeed.

Moby and Kelli Scarr 2010.

Moby and Kelli Scarr came into the studio feeling a bit jittery and uncertain, but the magic of the challenge only seemed to inspire them even more. In just six hours time they managed to craft an amazing song from start to finish. Looking for something extra, they recorded an acoustic version of their track and then rose to an even greater challenge, a live performance right there in the studio! The spontaneous decision delighted everyone in attendance as Moby and Kelli’s remarkable talents were on full display; “Gone to Sleep” became the inaugural live performance at Project Song.

Mount Kimbie 2011.

London-based duo, Mount Kimbie, have been pushing the boundaries of soundscapes since 2008. Rooted in dubstep, Dominic Maker and Kai Campos have successfully taken their genre, born out of UK garage, reggae and drum ‘n bass to the US and beyond. Think tranquil timbres that entice listeners into aural worlds full of offsetting rhythms! This uniqueness was massively highlighted during their NPR Music’s first-ever electronic Tiny Desk Concert. Maker and Campos charmed crowds with triggering samples from drum pads and MIDI controllers as well as layering live drums, guitars and more for an unforgettable experience. It’s easy to see why Mount Kimbie has become an undeniable force in electronic music today!

Robert Glasper Experiment 2014.

Robert Glasper is one of the artists leading the way in neo-soul, or organic R&B. By gathering The Robert Glasper Experiment and collaborating with music greats like Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco and Norah Jones, Glasper’s two albums Black Radio and Black Radio 2 have become a standout force within the genre. While rarely heard on “urban” radio, these soulful tunes are built on old-school values, talented singers and MCs relying on their own melodic ability to share their stories rather than digital backing tracks, live instrumentation creating unique beats and vamps. It’s time for us to appreciate what Glasper has to offer as he brings forward an exciting new take on neo-soul.

Son Little 2015.

Son Littles’ performance at Paradiso in Amsterdam back in 2022 was nothing short of incredible: an enthralling mix of electronic and vocal elements that pushed gospel and blues into the 21st century with guitar processing, backward drones and choirs made from his looped voice. Two years later we were thrilled to see him gracing the Tiny Desk stage, his acoustic guitar and unprocessed voice only accompanied by the soulful singing of sister Megan Livingston and percussionist Jabari Exum providing a gentle yet uplifting backdrop. Coming from a family of preachers, Aaron Livingston, aka Son Little knows how to deliver music straight to the heart. His sound is wonderfully universal, effortlessly bridging past and present, reminding us all why we love his music so much!

Sampha 2017.

Music fans have been in for a real treat lately thanks to Sampha! The British singer has been having an incredible breakout year, having released his debut full-length album, Process, as well as appearing on Frank Ocean and Solange‘s albums last year. Even Drake enlisted his talents with the shining track “4422” off of More Life. Adding to this hot streak, NPR recently released a captivating Tiny Desk concert performance featuring three live and direct cuts from Process. It’s truly remarkable how Sampha is quickly spiraling into super stardom; without a doubt he makes excellent music that’s here to stay.

Chronixx 2017.

In 2017 electronic reggae artist Chronixx lit up NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series with a sensational set of tunes from his latest album Chronology. Delivering classic roots-reggae vibes, the artist and band Zincfence Redemption produced a superb performance of “Skankin’ Sweet,” “Majesty,” and “Spanish Town Rocking.” A live concert is always an experience like no other; thanks to this amazing edition of Tiny Desk we get to take part in something truly special, even if it is from the comfort of our own homes! Check out the session above, grab a cold beverage and make sure you prepare yourself for an unforgettable ride!

Khruangbin 2018.

If you think funk, soul and all things groovy only come from one place, then get ready to be proven wrong! Hailing from Houston, Texas, Khruangbin is a tight-knit trio that has traveled the world to discover hidden gems in music. From funk and soul in Thailand to bubbly Spanish tunes, enchanting Ethiopian vibes and Middle-Eastern flavors, nobody can resist their undeniably captivating beats. With Laura Lee laying down heartwarming bass lines, Mark Speer melting us with his melodious guitars under rich reverb and Donald “DJ” Johnson keeping it together on drums and piano, this band will make you love them with con todo el mundo! That special name just so happens to be derived from Laura’s Mexican-American grandfather who would always ask about her love for him in such poetic terms. And truly nothing speaks like the sound of Khruangbin at a Tiny Desk Concert… So join them as they take you on an imaginative journey around the world through music!

GoldLink 2018.

GoldLink has just made an appearance at NPR’s Tiny Desk and it was an absolute show-stopper! The D.C. rapper performed with electrifying energy, captivating the audience with his set of songs from the acclaimed At What Cost album as well as some old fan favorites. It was truly a performance to remember; one that showcased his outstanding artistry and kept everyone mesmerized. So if you’re looking for something vibrant and electric, don’t miss out on checking out GoldLink’s Tiny Desk performance!

Chromeo 2018.

Never before had funk heard a show like this! Chromeo aka the Funklordz brought their signature electro-funk jams to Tiny Desk in a setting unlike anything seen before, with shimmering chrome guitars and keyboards mounted on mannequin lady legs. Performing live for the very first time, Dave 1 and P-Thugg, two childhood friends from Montreal proved yet again that despite their respective cultural backgrounds, music can cross all boundaries and make for an undeniably infectious sound. And perhaps nothing epitomizes this better than P-Thugg’s legendary Talk Box.

Ari Lennox 2019.

Ari Lennox absolutely brought the house down with her NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Despite not feeling her best, the Shea Butter Baby singer proved she has no off days as she beautifully belted out “Ayy boy, don’t you waste my time” to kick things off. Her set was packed full of impressive range and vibrato, charming banter in between songs and warm affection. She even gently told the younger viewers it was alright to enjoy the next song’s title ‘Pussy Pop’. It’s clear Ari Lennox is all about delivering soul-stirring, captivating performances and her Tiny Desk Concert was certainly no exception.

Little Dragon 2020.

Little Dragon has done it again – for all of us music lovers, the Swedish band shared an unforgettable Tiny Desk (Home) Concert with NPR and made sure to leave our hearts singing. With Yukimi Nagano on percussion, Erik Bodin on drums and vocals, Fredrik Wallin on bass, and Håkan Wirenstrand on the keyboard, we were able to embark on a new journey through downtempo electronic soul straight from the band’s Gothenburg-based studio. Time flew by as Little Dragon ran through their setlist of tracks, both recent releases off New Me, Same Us and classic hits such as ‘Where You Belong’ and ‘Forever’ leaving us feeling content with 20 minutes of mesmerizing grooves. Who said Monday blues don’t exist?

Black Coffee 2021.

Last but not least, Black Coffee‘s performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series was an absolute spectacle! With a full backing band and powerful vocalists, he delivered a nearly 20-minute set that blended his own productions with live percussion and keyboards. The South African house pioneer created a mesmerizing atmosphere, one that was truly unforgettable! A perfect combination of music and live elements, the audience was surely impressed with what they heard. It’s no surprise that the home edition of this beloved concert series continues to present artists from all over the world in new and captivating ways!

Last few words.

Thanks for checking this comprehensive list of some of the best (and electronic focused) Tiny Desk concerts. From the golden vocals of Ari Lennox to the funky sounds of Chromeo, from Little Dragon’s downtempo electronic soul to Black Coffee’s mesmerizing house performance. NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series has truly captivated us with a spectacular array of artists and genres. Music is an international language that brings people together, no matter their cultural background or preferences. It was amazing to see all these incredible musicians come together on one stage (or desk) and share their unique talents! We can’t wait for what else this incredible music platform will bring in the future. If you liked this list, also make sure to check out our article on some of the best essential mixes ever.

For the full list of every Tiny Desk performance ever check this Wikipedia page.

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Kono Vidovic at Dirty Disco

Kono Vidovic

DJ | MUSIC CURATOR & SELECTOR | PODCAST MAKER | BLOGGER Professional online interpreneur. Coffee practitioner. Electronic music culture maven. Total music guru. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Food & sports fanatic.

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