There were nearly 150 entries from Massachusetts to this year's NPR Tiny Desk Contest. Five panelists — Billy Dean Thomas, Erin Chase, Christian Burno, Charley Ruddell and Amelia Mason — were tasked with choosing a favorite. But it's hard to pick just one. So as we prepare to reveal the panel's top choice, we're highlighting a few entries that left an impact.
Not familiar with Eddie Saturn? Watch the first 10 seconds of “Return VI,” the Springfield rapper’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest submission, and it will tell you everything you need to know: Star Wars figurines, Anime playing on a TV screen, various comics and collectibles, wonky camera visuals. “Domo arigato,” he says with a smile into the mic, a four-piece band behind him laying down a hypnotic loop, the kind of Golden age hip-hop beat you’d hear in a Tony Hawk video game.
“‘Return VI’ is, as the Roman numeral suggests, the sixth installment of my song anthology titled ‘Return,’" Saturn tells me in an email. (He does not mention what I see as an ode to “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi.”) “I don’t wanna sound insane/ But I think I lived this life before, it’s not the same,” he belts over a break in the beat before sliding into a slick flow; “The song is about me coming back from chasing who I was in 2015,” he adds, saying that after a benchmark year, his journey continues to offer success and prosperity.
I think I can speak for all of this year’s panelists when I say that this video, with its disorienting, warbly aesthetic chopped up with fisheye lens shots and breakaway pans to the candescent studio, is what gave Saturn an edge in our roundup. Admittedly, it was a big factor for me overall; I found it to be a savvy move. The track, while both sticky and savory, sits in a singular pocket (as most great ‘90s hip-hop soundalikes should); a striking and vibey video is the perfect way to round out artistic identity in a recorded live performance.
Saturn is melding ‘80s nerd with a ‘90s sound and we’re here for it.