Story Corps

Danielle Ponder submitted the song "Poor Man's Pain" to the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest.


Over the last few weeks, we've been sharing some of the many 2020 Tiny Desk Contest entries that have caught our eyes and ears. If you have a song you'd like us to hear, you have until until 11:59 p.m. ET on April 27 to enter the Contest. You can check out a playlist of all the entries we've featured on the blog on YouTube — and if you think you've got what it takes, check out the Official Rules and fill out the eligibility checklist, then film your video and submit it here.

Great Gale, "Cover Up"


Hometown: Providence, R.I.
Pairs well with: Head banging; nail biting; circling the drain

Psychedelic lighting paired with an eerie rocking sound captivates viewers in the opening of Great Gale's entry, "Cover Up." The Providence, R.I., band's song expresses feelings of helplessness and loss of control, which are only exacerbated as the song progresses. At the bridge, lead singer Jeana DeLaire's muttering turns into begging as she repeats, "Is there anything I can say / To help you out / Is there anything I can say / Anything I can say?" —Elle Mannion

Piel, "Custodian"


Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Pairs well with: A solo dance party while watering your houseplants

On Facebook, Piel lists "nature, turbulence, resilience, injustice, mantras, light and dark and beyond" among its influences (alongside artists like Joy Division, Sade and Pink Floyd). The psychedelic combination is a tall order, but Piel matches it with a danceable rock sound, grounded by singer Tiki Lewis' smooth delivery. In the video for "Custodian," the first-time Contest entrants pack an energetic, seamless performance into a space overflowing with greenery. —Marissa Lorusso

Danielle Ponder, "Poor Man's Pain"


Hometown: Rochester, N.Y.
Pairs well with: Fighting for freedom

Danielle Ponder preaches with a powerful conviction in her entry, "Poor Man's Pain." The video's YouTube description notes, "This song was inspired by Willie Simmons, who was sentenced to life in prison for stealing $9 in 1982, the people I've represented as a public defender and my brother who was sentenced to 20 years to life for a larceny." Ponder shares this message with a demanding presence and a sound that serves as the perfect voice of a movement: anthemic while compassionate; soulful while bold and strong. She reverberates with a goose bump-inducing passion, building to the song's final wail for freedom. —Elle Mannion

Mani Bahia & The Mob, "Sunday Morning"


Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Pairs well with: Moving all your furniture to the walls to clear out a dance floor

Mani Bahia and The Mob's entry "Sunday Morning" is a house party, and Mani is an MC in the most literal sense of the term: the master of ceremonies, introducing herself and the band, floating over a driving funk-infused beat and then letting the instrumentalist shine. Just make sure you have space to two-step before you hit play. —Jon Lewis

Zoe Berman, "Age of the Sherbet Man"


Hometown: Denver, Colo.
Pairs well with: A phone call with an old friend; a renewed sense of hope

From her whimsical and sweetly lit "quaran-tent," singer and songwriter Zoe Berman shares her perceptions of the world in the "Age of the Sherbet Man" with heartfelt intent. The warmth and easy manner of Berman's voice and delicate guitar melody make it a tune worth settling into. Berman says of the song: "It's about resilience and unity — about overcoming what divides us, focusing on our shared humanity and recognizing that we can and will persist to make it through another day." —Emma Bowers

Hiroya Tsukamoto, "Another Great Day To Be Alive"


Hometown: New York, N.Y.
Pairs well with: Your favorite blanket; a pleasant daydream

There are showier ways to play a guitar than what Hiroya Tsukamoto does in his song "Another Great Day To Be Alive," but few ways more beautiful. Tsukamoto transforms the instrument into an orchestra, playing both melody and accompaniment to create a soothing, soaring and contemplative song. —Jon Lewis

Sierra Sellers, "Ophelia"


Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Pairs well with: Dimming the lights; sipping wine while slow dancing barefoot

Starting off soft and slow, surrounded by the warm glow of copious candles, Sierra Sellers and her band present a necessary calm in "Ophelia." Together, the ensemble produces an ebb and flow with every note that will have you bouncing and grooving as you listen along. While this is the Pittsburgh-based musician's first time entering the Contest, she's been making a name for herself in her local music community and was recently named one of Slingshot's 2020 Artists to Watch. —Tolu Igun

Daniel Meron & Kéren-Or, "I Am Now"


Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Pairs well with: Lazy Sunday morning coffee; floating among the stars

Daniel Meron & Kéreon-Or's song "I Am Now" is a cosmic treat about finding a sense of purpose. The message in the music is inviting, with each word twinkling and flowing into one another, making for a lyrical intergalactic dreamscape. Also, hats off to every musician involved — if not for the visual, you would never know that the four of them were not in the same room. As a unit, they're so in sync, and the playful, jazzy chord progression combined with the band's light and airy playing style makes for a smooth sound across the instrumentation. —Pilar Fitzgerald

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