Meet Alisa Amador, the winner of the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest
Today, Morning Edition announced the winner of the eighth annual Tiny Desk Contest: Alisa Amador. A songwriter from Boston, Mass., her entry "Milonga accidental" rose to the top of the thousands NPR Music received this year.
This was Amador's fifth year submitting a song to the Contest in the hope that it would earn her a performance behind series creator Bob Boilen's famed Tiny Desk. For this year, she tried something new: She submitted a song sung entirely in Spanish, with a video that included what she calls an "animated visual translation of the lyrics."
"Milgona," from the song's title, "is a folk rhythm from Argentina and Uruguay," Amador tells All Thing Considered's Mary Louise Kelly. "It's a really driving rhythm." She says she's always identified with her family's roots in Argentina, Puerto Rico, New Mexico and all of the other places her family is from. She explains that "Milonga accidental" is an ode to feeling like she doesn't fit neatly into any one box. "Cuando sabré descifrar mi razón? / Cuando sentiré mi hogar en mi voz?" ("When will I know how to decipher my purpose? / When will I feel at home in my voice?"), she sings in her winning entry.
Past Tiny Desk Contest winners have gone on to win Grammy awards and write for Broadway, Kelly points out. Amador says that finding out she won brought on a mix of emotions – both immense excitement and wondering, "Oh my God, what am I going to do with this?"
In the past few months, Amador says she had actually been considering an exit from a career in music. "A career in independent music is challenging in good times," Amador says. "And these [past few years] have been uniquely, painfully, difficult times." Amador admits that just before Boilen called her to let her know she'd won, she had been feeling so tired that she didn't think she could keep pursuing music, but was grieving the thought of letting it go.
Winning is "such an honor," Amador says. "I do not take this lightly." She says her friends call these life-changing curveballs "an intervention from the universe." We're so glad Amador took a fifth swing.
Hear "Milonga accidental" below, and listen to our full conversation with Amador above. To see Amador perform live, you can get tickets for the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour here.