Pick of the Week: Alisa Amador “I Need To Believe”

A black and white photograph of Alisa Amador in the lower right corner, overlayed on a green background. White text reads: "WERS 88.9 Pick of the Week, Alisa Amador - I Need To Believe"
Graphics by Grace Kinney

By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator

The world has been waiting for Alisa Amador’s next move, and “I Need To Believe” is everything we could have hoped for, from its rockish undercurrent to its uplifting mantra.

Once a hidden gem in Boston’s local music scene, in 2022 Amador won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest over thousands of other entrants. Suddenly, she catapulted to wide fame. As a part of winning, Amador spent 2023 on a headlining tour around the U.S., and of course got to put on her very own Tiny Desk Concert. Her four-song set was in the same NPR office setup that legendary artists like Alicia Keys and Brittany Howard have also performed in. Visible in the background are the shelves housing a sizable CD and record collection, and lined with trinkets left by those who passed through the iconic space.

Now, Amador is back with her new, upbeat single, “I Need To Believe.” While as groovy and emotionally deep as always, the track also gives a taste of a new direction for this Boston artist whose career and personhood have recently reached such new heights.



In “I Need To Believe,” Amador sings candidly about finding her place in the world. It’s a theme she’s no stranger to; Her video submission to Tiny Desk (her fifth time entering the contest) was a song with similar reflections. “Milonga Accidental,” by Amador, was the first Spanish language song to win the contest’s highest honors. In it, she reflects on what it feels like to navigate multiplicity. With family roots in Argentina, Puerto Rico and New Mexico, she describes the feeling of not being able to relate in full to any of these identities. 

"Cuando sabré descifrar mi razón?” (“When will I know how to decipher my purpose?”), then “Cuando sentiré mi hogar en mi voz?" ("When will I feel at home in my voice?"), she sings in the 2022 video submission. These lyrics run parallel to a line in the chorus of “I Need To Believe.” The pre-chorus goes, “When it’s so hard not to feel, that the beauty is not real, that it’s never good enough.” And then: “I need to believe, that I do belong in this world I’m living in.” As many of us are, Amador is still on the journey of fighting the imposter syndrome she is experiencing, whether it relates to her cultural identity or her musical talent. 

The song goes on to hear more anecdotal lyrics (including a flight back to Boston). These moments of vulnerability make it so that when Amador sings the uplifting chorus — and her uplifting call to throw away “all the cruel lies I hear myself say” — listeners don’t just hear the lyrics, they believe in the same message alongside her. 



Alisa Amador’s vocal performance is never short of stunning. On “I Need To Believe” she leans into more of an alternative sound, with short bursts of energy dispersed through the narrative. It stands apart from songs like her most popular, “Timing,” which approach a jazz falsetto. A round a minute and a half into “I Need To Believe,” Amador adds a stunning vocal embellishment. It’s not nearly as showy as her near 30-second vocal run that ends “Timing,” but it gives a peek into the full, seemingly effortless range she is capable of.

Amador also invites a fellow artist to sing backing vocals on the new single — a first for the soloist. Fellow former Tiny Desk Contest winner Quinn Christopherson joins Amador, his vocals coming in at the chorus, only adding further oomph and conviction. 

The release of “I Need To Believe” came not long before Amador announced her upcoming debut studio album. The record, Multitudes, will be out in the world on June 7th. 

As for what else is next for Alisa Amador, who’s to tell… NPR writes, “[Tiny Desk] Contest winners have gone on to sign with major labels, open for legendary performers, and even receive Grammy awards.” The latter accomplishment refers to their first winner, in 2015, Fantastic Negrito. Amador certainly has the talent for such accomplishments; what it takes may be to “believe,” and luckily, she is clearly on her way. 



Every Monday, our music staff brings you a new Pick of The Week, detailing some of our favorite songs. Check out our previous Picks of the Week here, and make sure to tune in to WERS 88.9FM!

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