During the pandemic, musical artists have raised the bar on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Because they can't actually perform from Bob Boilen's "tiny desk" in NPR's music office, they've been given carte blanche to imagine outside the box. The performances themselves are what you'd expect from these artists — terrific — it's the sets that they're having fun with.
Back in August, Billie Eilish and FINNEAS performed in front of a realistic cardboard cutout of Bob Boilen's desk. Then, in September, Phoebe Bridgers used a green-screen to make it out like she and her band were playing from the Oval Office.
Enter Miley Cyrus. For her concert, she not only embraces the concept of "tiny" but makes her backdrop a personal statement.
Here, the scene opens with Cyrus, dressed head to toe in rock-star faux fur, in what looks like a teenage girl's bedroom. But the perspective in this pink-and-purple space feels a little … odd. As Cyrus sings, it becomes clear that this is her Wonderland – like Alice full of magical cake, she's grown to exceed her surroundings. By the end of this three-song set, Cyrus reveals that it's the adolescent enclave that grew too small for her, not the other way around.
The songs Cyrus offers are as direct and affecting as the set is whimsical. Cyrus has lately proven herself one of pop's great interpretive vocalists, and she scores another triumph with her version of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You," a hazy psychedelic anthem that she infuses with just the edge of the next day's hangover. The two songs from Plastic Hearts that follow are her own bids at classic-rock timelessness. In "Golden G-String" Cyrus assesses her own life in the spotlight with Leonard Cohen-esque charm. And "Prisoner" is the power ballad that lets Cyrus really break out – as she leaves the tiny room — just a box, it turns out, on a soundstage – and joins her band, she's as free and self-confident as she's ever been.
[Can we please talk about her "Fade into You"? Holy wow, that was moving!]
screenshot via NPR/YouTube