Linda Diaz is the winner of the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest.Courtesy of the artist
We have a winner! For the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest from NPR Music, our all-star team of judges reviewed more than 6,000 entries from across the U.S. and chose Linda Diaz, who submitted the song "Green Tea Ice Cream."
Linda Diaz is a native New Yorker who grew up in Manhattan's Lower East Side and makes dreamy R&B anchored by her skilled and soulful voice. In her Contest entry video, filmed with a cast of friends in February, Diaz makes a case for slowing down with both her song's message and its laid back beat. "Do you even know what you're working toward? / Slow down / You're burning out," she sings.
Diaz says "Green Tea Ice Cream" came out of a difficult period of her life. In a short span of time, her grandfather died, she got broken up with and she lost her job. "I think this song was a realization that I had an opportunity to build something new and if I was going to do that," she says, "I needed to be honest with myself about what I value and what I love and what I need in my life."
Diaz says centering the experience of joy, even when she's in pain, is an intentional choice that she makes with her music and when dealing with difficulty, asking herself: "How do I want to move forward?"
"If you're going through something difficult, no matter how little or much you have, you always have yourself and you always have your values and you always have your morals," she says. "So how can you lead your life in a way that best aligns with that so that you're successful by your own standards?"
Diaz also reiterates something she told NPR Music's Sidney Madden earlier this year, that "Black joy is radical."
"I do think it is a radical thing to be like, 'I'm happy and I'm focusing on my joy and I'm focusing on my purpose and I'm not necessarily focusing on an audience or what other people want from me,' " she says. "But truly, I am recognizing the things in my life that are good, and many of those things are coming from my community. I think in that way, it's super radical to love yourself as a Black person in this time."
Diaz joins an impressive cohort of past Tiny Desk Contest winners — which include Grammy award winners and festival headliners among them — but she's winning the Tiny Desk Contest at an unusual time. Performances at the Tiny Desk have been on hold since the coronavirus shut down NPR offices in March, but when she does get a chance to stop by, it won't be for the first time. Diaz actually made an appearance at the Tiny Desk last year, as a backup singer for Jordan Rakei.
In the meantime, Linda Diaz and her band are putting together a socially-distanced video for NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concert series. Although she doesn't want to give away too much, she says she's "really excited to do something creative."
Noah Caldwell and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and edited this interview. Cyrena Touros adapted it for the Web.