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'How I Built This' Staffers Pick Their 5 Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts

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 How I Built This join us. The first pick is from the show's creator and host, Guy Raz.


Wow! I cannot believe it was that long ago. It feels like it just happened. I remember this one so well because I camped out at Stephen Thompson's desk two hours before Pixies arrived at the building. I even bribed Stephen with a plastic Green Bay Packers helmet if he'd let me loiter. I wanted the best spot. For me, Pixies are high school and college; the band was part of the soundtrack to my life back then. Frank Black and Joey Santiago together again — wow! They rehearsed for a few minutes before the recording and hearing Frank Black belt out the first notes of "Where is My Mind?" brought me to tears. I don't know why. It was this powerful feeling of a time and a place that was long past. — Guy Raz

Alicia Keys

There was a member on our team who watched this unfold on Twitter: Someone tweeted at Alicia asking if she'd do a Tiny Desk concert, and coincidentally, two days later she was here. To me, Alicia Keys represents the strides that Black women have made in music during the since the 1990s, and her talent stems from an effortless kindness that emanates throughout the room. My favorite moment of this Tiny Desk is when she changed her microphones herself, proving that Alicia is the most down-to-earth Grammy-award winning artist today.


The Tiny Ass Desk! What's not on the official video is that when Lizzo was about to begin, you just knew she was going to start with those first perfect monster "I'm Crying Cuz I Love You" notes; she took that deep breath...and then the main videographer, Morgan, stopped her cold because the shot was off. That is brave! And she could not have been nicer. Then she started again, and the rest is history.

Tank And The Bangas

The band was the winner of the Tiny Desk Contest during my first year at NPR. The judges' votes were unanimous and it's obvious why — my colleagues and I spent the entire week leading up to the concert watching the group's submission video over and over again. The concert itself was jaw-dropping; their winning song, "Quick," had the whole office dancing. But when Tank and the Bangaspivoted to its final number, "Rollercoasters," we all froze, captivated (especially by the low notes that Jelly Joseph hit flawlessly). When the song was over, I don't think there was a dry eye in the office. All these years later, I still go back and listen to this one every few months.


After watching Leikeli47's Tiny Desk, her song "Girl Blunt" was featured in every big, woman-led blockbuster movie that summer. Her music is empowering and her voice is so unique that it acts as its own instrument.

This playlist was selected and curated by Guy Raz (How I Built This, Host), Jeff Rogers (Executive Producer), Rachel Faulkner (Associate Producer) and Candice Lim (News Assistant).

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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