The best 2021 Tiny Desk contest entries we’ve seen this week: Volume 2


Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of the many Tiny Desk 2021 contest entries that caught our eyes and ears. Contest ends soon: you only have until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 7. If you think you have what it takes, check out the Official Rules and fill in the eligibility checklist, then shoot your video and submit it here!

Allison Mahal, “Superego”

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Goes well with: A long drive at sunset

Allison Mahal has a powerful voice, a knack for heartbreaking lyrics, and a living room full of blossoming houseplants: all the necessary ingredients for a remarkable entry in the Tiny Desk contest. Her song “Superego” explores the moments of retrospection and ambivalence that come after miscommunication: “An honest mistake, saying I want you,” she sings, desperately, in chorus, “asking you the same thing: Do you want me?—Marissa Lorusso

Kevonna Rose, “Damn Daniel.”

Hometown: Berlin, New Jersey
Goes well with: Girdle spectacularly in the shower; clean up after a break

In Kevonna Rose’s entry, the New Jersey singer-songwriter gives the line “Damn Daniel” – an apparent nod to the 2016 viral video of the same name – a new meaning. Rose tells a story of disbelief as she is dragged into the nonsense of a lover when a relationship turns sour. Throughout the slow burner, Rose’s exquisite voice shines through. Towards the end, she winks, “You ruined my vacation / but damn it, you’re going to hear about it on the radio.” Damn it, Daniel. —She Mannion

Hodera, “Best intentions”

Hometown: Butler, New Jersey
Goes well with: Pensive summer days; long nights that end with sunrise

Matthew Smith, frontman of the New Jersey-based band Hodera, hopes his first entry in the Tiny Desk contest “will make you feel something.” Something is an understatement. Remarkable for its moving writing, “Best Intentions” will transport you to forgotten memories and revive residual passions. Performing in his garden surrounded by loved ones, Smith raises his hoarse voice skyward to cast out the demons within and make amends. —La Tesha Harris

Malena Cadiz, “Hellbent and Moonbound”

Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Goes well with: Morning coffee; an afternoon hike

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Malena Cadiz has participated in the Tiny Desk Contest on several occasions, and “Hellbent and Moonbound” is not the first song to impress us; we presented it husky, expressive voice and dreamy writing last year. She says “Hellbent and Moonbound” is a song about believing in yourself and choosing your own path; “I have to hang, no line, no tie,” she sings, “nothing I can’t leave behind.” —Marissa Lorusso

Alisa Amador, “Still life”

Hometown: Boston, Mass.
Goes well with: Self-reflection; standing near a shore

Alisa Amador says she wrote “Still Life” during an Argentinian songwriting class she attended via Zoom from her Boston home. The prompt was “silencio (silence)”. In a loud and soothing voice, the quadruple contestant sings: “There was no melody that trusted me / to carry all the words that I had kept within me for so long.” With “Still Life”, it seems that she has found the perfect melody to fill the silence. —She Mannion

Nicole Han, “Make a scene!”

Hometown: Villa Park, California
Goes well with: Ironic rage; Olivia Rodrigo’s “bon 4 u”

Hell has no fury like a woman who is fed up with a man’s foolishness. “Make a scene! Call all your friends, tell them I’m crazy, you hate me, so we can wrap it up,” sings cool and effortless Nicole Han over delicate piano chords as she predicts – can – even being eggs – an explosion sweetheart. Born out of limbo between (obsessive) adoration and well-deserved exasperation, the poetic lyricism of “Make A Scene! produces a cinematic portrait of an endless tragedy. —La Tesha Harris

Ephraim Bugumba, “Year 1”

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois.
Goes well with: Slow down; To squeeze tightly

“Year One” by singer-songwriter Ephraim Bugumba is the painfully beautiful kind of song that cuts through the noise and stops you in your tracks. It’s a tender song about learning to love. It’s slow, but every break is deliberate and emotional. Bugumba, who previously told NPR he “hopes his music can also inspire others to feel hope and show vulnerability,” wrote in the video’s YouTube description: “This song explores fear, doubt and solace in a possible complete vulnerability. ” —She Mannion


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