NPR’s quaint Tiny Desk concert series – which features artists playing acoustic sets in front of small audiences behind a titular tiny desk in what always looks to me like the children’s section of a public library – has featured a few Latin artists in the past, such as Julieta Venegas, Diego Garcia, and Y La Bamba. The concerts are intimate pieces with, usually, obscure and up and coming artists (just because you know who Julieta Venegas is doesn’t mean NPR’s audience does) showcasing what obscure/up and coming artists do best: the kind of honest, intimate, expressive performance that you can only get from someone desperately hoping that if they just do music hard enough someone will notice them and give them money for it.
Which is why we were pretty confused that mostly-over-for-right-now mega popstar Juanes – that guy even your white friends know about because he was ubiquitous enough a few years ago for their Spanish teachers to latch onto as a teaching aid – was awarded a Tiny Desk concert of his very own. Does he have a new album coming out we didn’t know about?
It’s…fine? The stripped down format of the Tiny Desk concert allows us to see past memories of hair gel and appreciate Juanes as a musician more than we might usually, but it helps that he starts off with two lesser known songs of his that seem to be written for this kind of venue, the dulcet Hoy Me Voy and the more driving Yerbatero. Unfortunately, he progresses into Camisa Negra from there, a much larger, much more produced, much more Top 40 friendly pop song that, in this format, sounds exactly like you’d expect a stripped down acoustic cover of a Top 40 friendly song to sound; it reminds us why we got over him in high school. Check out the concert here.