The music scene in Massachusetts received a huge boost back in May, when Boston-area artist Alisa Amador was announced as the winner of NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest. (The Tiny Desk Contest is NPR’s annual invitation for unsigned musicians throughout the country to compete with live performances of original songs.) Amador won with a stunning rendition of “Milonga Accidental,” a song about yearning to reconcile the disparate parts of her identity. It was her fifth entry to the contest, and her first in Spanish.
Amador’s song wasn’t the only local submission worth writing home about. And so, once again, WBUR is on the search for our favorite Massachusetts entry to the Tiny Desk Contest. To that end, we convened a panel of five musicians and critics with deep ties to the local music scene:
- Amelia Mason is a senior arts reporter and critic at WBUR. She has been spearheading the search for WBUR’s favorite Massachusetts entry to the Tiny Desk Contest since 2018.
- Billy Dean Thomas, aka “The Queer B.I.G.,” is a Grammy-nominated recording artist who uses hip-hop to inspire change from the stage to the dance floor.
- Charley Ruddell is a freelance music journalist and critic who covers Boston music and beyond in Pitchfork, Reverb, WBUR, Aquarium Drunkard, Guitar Magazine and others.
- Christian Burno is an arts writer and bartender in Somerville. She's a champ at pop culture trivia and her favorite genre of music is anything made by a popular female artist in 1997.
- Erin Chase is a roots crooner and fiddle player with a feminist-rock edge. She is an assistant professor of songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Nearly 150 artists from Massachusetts entered the contest this year, and the panelists spent hours listening through entries to select the very best. Together, we determined a group of 21 finalists, which you can check out below. We will announce the Favorite at the end of October, so stay tuned!