We've watched thousands of 2021 Tiny Desk Contest entries. Now, it's time to highlight our favorites as we get closer to picking a winner: Welcome to Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf!
Every Thursday through Aug. 26, one of our Tiny Desk Contest judges will join me to play the videos that knocked us out. You're going to see talent you've never seen. And we'll invite some of our favorites on the show to talk about their entries.
For the second episode of Top Shelf this year, I invited Phoebe Bridgers to tell me about the videos that stood out to her. Bridgers has played four Tiny Desk concerts: She played songs from her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, in 2017; then returned to the Desk to perform with the supergroup boygenius in 2018 and with Better Oblivion Community Center in 2019. Then, last year, she performed an impressive Tiny Desk (home) concert. So we think she's pretty well-suited to help us choose a great undiscovered artist to be crowned the winner of this year's Contest.
Phoebe Bridgers' Top Shelf selections include a folk track by Rascal Miles about gender-affirming surgery, a song about despair and fireflies by florid, a reflection on compassion from Sabrina Song, an improvisational oud and pipa performance by the Issam Rafea and Gao Hong Duo and a song by Neffy inspired by moving back home during the pandemic. We even invited Neffy into the conversation to tell us about her song. "It really came down to writing what I needed to write, for my soul," she tells us.
New episodes of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf are streamed live every Thursday at 3 p.m. ET on NPR Music's YouTube page. You can learn more about the series — and sign up to be reminded about future episodes — at topshelf2021.nprpresents.org.
1. Rascal Miles, "Tailor-Made"
2. florid, "coup de grâce"
3. Neffy, "Wait Up"
4. Sabrina Song, "Thaw"
5. Issam Rafea and Gao Hong Duo, "The Return of Happy Days"