Announcing the winner of the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest Choosing one winner from all the incredible entries NPR Music receives each year is no small feat — but this year, one songwriter gave a captivating performance that rose to the top.

Announcing the winner of the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


NPR Music has been on the lookout for exceptional, undiscovered artists. In 2014, they launched the first Tiny Desk Contest. They didn't know at the time, but the very first winner, Fantastic Negrito, would go on to earn three Grammy awards.


FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) The games that people play. Slave through the year for a holiday.

MARTIN: The very next year, Gaelynn Lea won the contest


GAELYNN LEA: (Singing) You held my hand until the end. And I love you.

MARTIN: Gaelynn Lea just wrote music for a production of "Macbeth" now on Broadway. So, as you can tell, the Tiny Desk Contest has become a significant launching pad for young musicians. Today, we name another winner.

Bob Boilen of NPR Music is here. Bob, it's so nice to see you (laughter).

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: It's great to see you and actually see you, which is a remarkable thing.

MARTIN: Right. So you must feel like a proud dad in a way when you hear what these artists have accomplished.

BOILEN: You know, it's funny. That's well put. We are a family. Honestly, I'm in touch with these people, the winners of the Tiny Desk Contest. We are all - the videographers, the audio people, all of us on staff - are always so proud of these people who win the contest.

MARTIN: Yeah. So as part of the family - I mean, it's not just you, we should say. You're not alone when this decision is made. You've got a panel of judges, right?

BOILEN: Yeah, yeah. Every year, we try to bring in Tiny Desk alum, so that these are artists who have played at my desk at NPR. And so they're good at judging who will be good to come and play at Tiny Desk. This year, Big K.R.I.T. was one of the judges, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, Raveena was a judge, and iLe, who is also one of our judges - who actually is joining us, right?

MARTIN: Yes, iLe is on the line. How's it going, lady?

ILE: Hi, I'm good. How are you?

MARTIN: Hey. Doing well. So, iLe, tell me what you were looking for when you were trying to pick a winner here.

ILE: It was fun, but it was obviously hard, you know, because you want, like, everyone at the same time.


ILE: So it was hard.

MARTIN: You got to pick someone. Yeah, it's hard to pick a winner.

ILE: (Laughter) Yeah. And, you know, it's also - like, music and art is so relative. Like, everyone has a different opinion, you know? Everyone sees it or appreciates it differently.

MARTIN: Bob, that brings up a question, though. Are there any guidelines you give your judges, any criteria that they're supposed to look for?

BOILEN: Absolutely. First thing is, it's not about whether you love the music. It's whether you can see the talent. We all have different tastes in music, and there's no right or wrong here. But sometimes you'll just see something and go, whoa, that is amazing.

MARTIN: All right. So with that, should we do it? Should we make the announcement?

BOILEN: Can I make the drumroll on the table?

MARTIN: This is very, like, analog drumroll - low budge (ph).


BOILEN: I'm actually super excited. And the winner of the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest is Alisa Amador, and her song is called "Milonga Accidental."


ALISA AMADOR: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: Wow. Captivating - just totally captivating.

BOILEN: Yeah. And I didn't know what she was singing about, but I felt a yearning...


BOILEN: And I felt a questioning. What I know is she is living in the Boston area. She's a musician who's actually submitted to the Tiny Desk Contest - this is, I think, her fifth year. And she's done amazing stuff in the past. Her family is from all over, including Puerto Rico and Argentina.

MARTIN: iLe, we'll turn to you. Can you translate some of what she's saying?

ILE: Yeah. She's saying, like, when I look inside, when I look outside, when I look inside again, from the periphery to the center, I am always a judge and a witness. That's the first part. But then she ask herself, when will I decipher my reason?


AMADOR: (Singing in Spanish).

ILE: I like that because it's like a rhetorical question, you know? It's something that - you know, you never know exactly when you will find the answer, but you want to keep searching, you know? And that's the beauty of this song for me. Like, even though you feel like you don't know exactly where you belong in this world and you want to do everything at the same time, it's OK to feel that way, you know? I think that's what she's doing in this song. She's embracing how she feels about that. Like, we all go through this. It's fine. Just go with it.

MARTIN: Yeah. But I also sort of love that she's got this yearning. She's trying to figure out what her purpose is, what her path is. And her path is just changing - right? - like, in real life now through - by being named the winner of this contest. I mean, based on past experience with Tiny Desk Contest winners, I mean, it's a tipping point for a lot of people.

BOILEN: And she told us when I called her and had that wonderful moment of telling someone their life's about to change...


BOILEN: ...She said that she was at this point in her life where she was thinking of taking a break from music.

ILE: Oh.

BOILEN: So sometimes the world tells you other things.

MARTIN: Wow. Wow. I love that. You two, thank you so much for bringing us the music of Alisa Amador, the winner of this year's Tiny Desk Contest. Her winning song is called "Milonga Accidental." She will be on All Things Considered tonight. Thanks again to both of you.

ILE: Thank you.

BOILEN: My pleasure.

MARTIN: Bob Boilen from NPR Music and iLe, two of this year's judges.


AMADOR: (Vocalizing).

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.