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Japanese Breakfast and iLe share their top Tiny Desk Contest entries

Before we reveal our 2022 Tiny Desk Contest winner, our Contest judges have been sharing their favorite entries as part of our annual Top Shelf series. In the second episode, which streamed live on NPR Music's YouTube channel today, Tiny Desk alums Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast) and iLe shared their top picks with Bob Boilen.

Zauner and iLe's selections included remarkable guitarists, songs sung in Spanish, a "mind-blowing" bassist and more:

  • Pocket Queen & The Royal Flush, "WE CAME TO MOVE" 
  • Aubrey Hays, "Love Didn't Hurt You"
  • Micah Edwards, "Jean Leon"
  • Alisa Amador, "Milonga accidental"
  • Raine Stern, "Lydia" 
  • Piquete, "Fluir"
  • Ollella, "Lava" 
  • John Ferrara, "Perhaps Everything, Perhaps Nothing"
  • The judges also talked about their own experiences playing behind the Tiny Desk. "I remember being very, very nervous," admitted Zauner as she explained how performing without any vocal effects can be a very humbling experience.

    iLe said she had always thought she would make her performance perfect if she ever had the chance to perform behind the Desk. But her actual performance wasn't what she was expecting at all, she said – it was even better. "Sometimes it's nice when things go in a way that you don't plan or expect," iLe shared. "You learn new things about it and still enjoy the show."

    Bob said one of the nice things about messing up behind the Desk is that the audience (typically made up of staff working at NPR's headquarters) embraces the artist's fragility and appreciates having a special moment with them.

    We can't wait to have a special moment with this year's Tiny Desk Contest winner very soon. To watch all the entries to this year's Contest – and be among the first to know when we announce the winner – you can visit npr.org/tinydeskcontest.

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