Lately, we've been sharing some of our favorite entries to the 2021 Tiny Desk Contest, which closed for entries on June 7. We've heard songs from every state in the country, from big bands and solo artists, in a huge range of genres and styles — and now, our judges will start to comb through our entries to find a winner. Here are some of the best entries we've seen recently.
Raine Stern, "Touchin' Dont Feel Right"
Hometown: Madison, Wis.
Pairs well with: Cancelling a date you didn't want to go on in the first place
"Touchin' Don't Feel Right" has all the confidence and intimacy of a blues-funk love song, but with a respectful twist. This slow-burn from Raine Stern celebrates not wanting to be touched, whilst hitting all the right notes in all the right places. The recent contestant on NBC's The Voice wrote and arranged everything we hear, but it's the musicians who join her who pull it all off so effortlessly. And there's just something empowering about a song that asserts strong personal boundaries in this moment, as we're all trying to navigate this world we're re-living in. Oh, and stick around for one show-stopping guitar solo. —Pilar Fitzgerald
Mackenzie Shrieve, "Didn't I Tell Ya"
Hometown: Alamo, Calif.
Pairs well with: The final scene from Fleabag
When I first opened "Didn't I Tell Ya," I was a sucker for the scene: friends in wicker chairs on a front porch, their guitars accompanied by the soft sound of rain. I was intrigued and endeared by the sonic style: the way songwriter Mackenzie Shrieve waltzes between singing and speaking. But what has really stuck with me about this entry is the honest and clever lyricism: "You think I didn't want ya / when I couldn't keep up / I've never been into hard work / only good luck," Shrieve admits. "Another midnight conversation / where you say go to hell / I think I deserve it / I play the bad guy really well." —Elle Mannion
Oh, Hooray, "Torment The Butterfly"
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Pairs well with: Starting over; contemplating your life while looking out the window in a coffee shop
"Torment the Butterfly" is a sweet ode to self-love — becoming your own person and not letting someone else define you. Singer Jamie McDonald starts the song off slow and relaxed. It's just him and his ukulele reminiscing on a past relationship. When the rest of the band joins in, they increase in tempo and urgency and cut out just as Jamie declares that he's leaving. "Torment the Butterfly," with its empowering narrative and playful instrumentals, is both reflective and joyous. The band describes the song as a celebration of freedom and agency, which is best displayed when McDonald sings, "Maybe I can learn to love myself / stop learning it from someone else." —Jill Britton
talker, "Suck Up"
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Pairs well with: Learning to skateboard to impress your crush
Celeste Tauchar calls her music as talker "emo indie rock with glitter all over it." And while there's no actual glitter involved in her entry video, filmed in a Los Angeles backyard, Tauchar and her band put on a sharply-executed version of "Suck Up" — a song she says is about trying to maintain your identity in the midst of anxiety — that shimmers with charm and personality. —Marissa Lorusso
Nan Macmillan, "How Many Miles"
Hometown: Charlottesville, Va.
Pairs well with: Walking through the woods and pausing to take in the view
Nan Macmillan studied poetry in college before getting her master's degree in performance and production — and it shows. In her video for "How Many Miles," performed at a craft cidery in Charlottesville, Macmillan's luminous, clear voice lulls listeners as she recites three poetic verses.
"Love isn't always tender, I've tried, I know / The bitterness of a heart been broke / From a life before / And I know of a shelter, it feels like home / How many miles do I have to go? / How many miles do I have to go? / How many miles?" —Elle Mannion
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Pairs well with: Flirting with second chances
Latin trap has been dominating the charts for the last few years, but rarely is it represented in the Contest. Enter Mi$HNRZ. Like the time-traveling machine from Back to the Future, its song "Delorean" offers a nostalgic escape: one last chance at love once lost. Amidst swirling pink and purple hues, the group crams a ton of talent into a tiny space (a skill that we on the Tiny Desk Contest team take very seriously). This song of the summer paints a hopeful vision of "una noche mas," one more night to right the wrongs of the past. It's a will-they-or-won't-they for the Bad Bunny generation. —Pilar Fitzgerald
Jake Lloyd, "Cold Summer"
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Pairs well with: Checking your ex's Instagram when your friends specifically tell you not to
If you weren't paying attention to the lyrics of "Cold Summer," you would never think the song was about wanting someone you aren't with anymore, even if you realize they treated you poorly. However, it's hard not to be drawn to every word coming out of Jake Lloyd's mouth. His vocals are incredibly smooth, with each word perfectly leading into the next. The emotion he feels towards the person he's talking about is palpable, evident through his facial expressions and articulation. Aside from the poignant lyrics, the song is fun — perfect for a party in the summer with your friends. —Jill Britton Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.