Young Girl, Old Soul: Grace VanderWaal Shines on Debut Album

Rating: ★★★★★

Every so often, when the stars line up just right, and the angels find themselves all in agreement, there comes to Earth a talent so unique, so otherworldly, that even the staunchest of skeptics begin to consider the notion of reincarnation.

By outward appearances, Grace VanderWaal is a mere child. The world first glimpsed her as a contestant on the hit NBC television program America’s Got Talent. With her distinctive voice and skillful ability on ukulele, this girl dazzled viewers with an original song during audition week. She impressed the judges, who then sent her into the next round with the Golden Buzzer—an honor reserved only for the very best perfomers. With each subsequent week, Grace, like an onion, peeled back the layers and showed the world what lies beneath.

What we saw is a very old soul masquerading as a young girl. Grace VanderWaal, at the tender age of twelve, won season eleven of America’s Got Talent. And now, as if gifting the world, she’s released her debut album entitled Just the Beginning.

So, what does an album from a now-13-year-old sound like?

Pure heaven. Joy. Bliss. A sweet addiction that stirs up all those pleasure receptors in the brain.

I kid you not.

This 12-song full-length album is chock full of catchy tunes and sparkling gems that will still be relevant enough for airplay decades from now. On the album, she works with some award-winning producers that really capture the pure essence of the voice that first got America to take notice. And the fact that young Grace wrote or co-wrote every tune in this package boggles the mind.

The album opens with the ukulele-fueled “Moonlight,” a track that has listeners conjuring summer evenings under the night sky, when holding hands felt like the greatest thing in the world. “Sick of Being Told” moves us quickly into those teenage years of rebellion, when we felt old enough to make our own way, only to be reminded (by every adult) we still had a long road ahead of us.

Beneath lush piano, there’s a torment in Grace’s vocals on the darkly tinged “Burned,” a warning against continuing to do those things you know will only hurt you. “Just A Crush” dares listeners to sit still while hearing the honesty of a person who knows what she wants—and it isn’t the one she’s singing about. “So Much More Than This” is a bouncy number capable of painting even the grayest of winter skies with the lemon-yellow of summer sunshine.

“Talk Good” is a reminder of those moments when the mind wants to say the right thing but the tongue refuses to cooperate.

“Florets” is dreamy and gorgeous, filled with little bits of heaven. This one had been my favorite for the first few listens of Just the Beginning. But then I found myself entangled in the dark poetic beauty of the album’s closing track, “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me.” Anybody who has ever fallen under the blackness of depression can connect with this number. The maturity in her lyrics contradicts Grace’s age:

Opening my eyes
Seems like it gets harder sometimes
Look at the skylight
Would you mad at me if I tried running away to it in the night?
I tried to fight
But I’m not strong enough
I just want you here but I also wanna be alone
I don’t know what I want anymore

This is not a child singing here; this is a wise old sage taking refuge inside a young girl.

Have a listen to “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me” and find out what I’m talking about. If this song doesn’t touch you on some level, you just might want to check your pulse.

“Darkness Keeps Chasing Me” (with lyrics) 

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Click Here to Buy Just the Beginning

Also Available at TargetWalmart, and iTunes

 

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49 thoughts on “Young Girl, Old Soul: Grace VanderWaal Shines on Debut Album

  1. LAWRENCE L KULP

    A song for the ages, sung by a 13-year-old artist going on 113. Seems like everyone is talking about this song. The reactions are all pretty much the same: AWE.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      A great way to put it, Lawrence, 13 going on 113. She’s certainly going places. I just hope she has a solid support system in place, because there will be times when it will become overwhelming for someone of such a young age.

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      1. John Woolf

        I’m one of those from the older generation of Grace fans. Haven’t been impressed by an artist in the music industry in a very long time. Grace is truly gifted. Been watching this young lady for for the last year. Comes from a strong, loving and supportive family. I know things can change being exposed to this industry but have hopes she will remain true to herself. She’s very humble. Search and take a look at her acceptance speech for the Billboard rising Star award on YouTube. She truly has the poise of someone 3 times her age. Didn’t want to post a link here. Thanks for a great article.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. beemweeks Post author

        I’m with you, John. Grace has truly impressed me as well. I’ve seen that her family is quite involved with what’s going on in her life right now. I’m not overly worried for her. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

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  2. John Wisdom

    Great Review … Especially since I agree with every single word. 🙂
    Grace has rekindled my love of music, and gives me hope for the next generation of young adults!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review, John. I’m a huge music fan. I’m into all sorts of music, though my passion is heavy metal. It’s been a while since I’ve really been blown away by new talent. Grace has been a breath of fresh air.

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  3. Maureen Kowalski

    I’m 59 and I loved her from the first time I saw her singing in yellow pants on AGT. There are two exclusive bonus tracks on her CD if you purchase it from Target with unofficial videos on you tube–Lungs and Hope for Change. I recommend taking a listen to Lungs. Absolutely gorgeous with a fantasy like quality about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      I knew of the two bonus track on the Target version, but I had an iTunes gift card, so that’s where I got it from. But I totally agree with you, Maureen. That first appearance on AGT really set the pace for Grace. I figured she’d make the finals, just based on that first audition. Thanks for chiming in.

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  4. Kevin Foreman

    I loved this review, i am 49, and thought music had been on its death bed since auto tune was invented.I bought the album, and now have hope for the future of music now. Darkness keeps chasing me is the best song I have heard since November Rain.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      I agree, Kevin. Auto tune is just awful. It has about killed music. I’m a 50-year-old metal head. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica are my bands of choice. But Grace’s voice and lyrics struck a chord deep inside of me. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. Yes, the future of music is bright.

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    1. beemweeks Post author

      Thanks, Jan. I watched her on America’s Got Talent. From week to week, after hearing yet another original from this girl, you’d get this sense that she’s been making music since back when God first hung the stars in the sky.

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  5. Crashman206

    Great article! You have expertly expressed what I have been unable to when trying to explain my fascination with this extraordinarily talented singer/songwriter to my middle aged friends.
    Your description of her “old soul” is also amazingly reinforced by her honest, soulful, emotional singing on her cover of Leon Bridge’s song “River,” which she has been performing in concert (and viewable in youtube videos.)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. LAWRENCE L KULP

        Actually, my favorite rendition of “A Better Life” was her 10-07-17 debut of the song at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. She was lit for her entire 1-hour concert there, but she really cut loose on the choruses for this song. Even reminded me a little of Janis Joplin. At a recent performance of this song, Grace had trouble finishing it through her tears. She later revealed that it was a song written for her brother, who was having drug problems at the time. As you may know, her singing about the temporary happiness in “finding a lighter on the street” referred to a small amount of crack cocaine. It simply boggles mind mind that she can write a song like this at her young age. She almost cried at the end of her cover of “A-Team” in Paste Studios, probably for the same reason.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. beemweeks Post author

        Thanks for sharing that, Lawrence. I have seen her ACL festival shows a few times now on YouTube. You’re actually the second person I’ve heard to make the Joplin comparison. The drug issue with her brother is something that obviously touches her soul, which is why she is able to write a song like “A Better Life” and sing it so convincingly. She really is a rare talent. I do hope she doesn’t burn out the way Janis did. But Grace has an incredible family structure behind her that has, so far, kept her grounded.

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  6. Shirley Harris-Slaughter

    An old soul with an old voice. Every once in a while someone appears to shake up the world and Grace VanderWaal is one of them. I think of Janice Joplin when I listen to her.

    Thank you for introducing her to the likes of me because I never heard of her. I better start watching the talent shows again.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  7. Mae Clair

    I was so stunned when I saw her on America’s Got Talent. Her voice, creativity, and passion for what she does are amazing. I didn’t realize she’d released an album. You are so right in calling her an old soul masquerading as a young girl. She has such wisdom and insight for her age. Wonderful post, Beem, and thanks for sharing the vid.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      I think Grace stunned millions, Mae. Though Just the Beginning is her debut album, Grace released a 5 song EP, entitled Perfectly Imperfect, in 2016, right after winning AGT. This contains four of the songs she wrote and performed on AGT. It is also quite good. In fact, it was the biggest selling EP for 2016. Incredible feat for somebody just getting started in life.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  8. RaveReviewsbyNJ

    Hadn’t heard of her before now, so thanks for sharing this talent! I love old souls…I gave birth to one. WE constantly swear that she was here long before we were.

    Thanks again for the review! Awesome! Checking her out on ITunes.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      I agree, Nonnie. I love old souls as well. My daughter, when she was four, five, six years old, spoke as one who had been here before. As for Miss VanderWaal, I bought her album on iTunes and I have become addicted to it. Every song on it just sticks in my head. I even listen while working out (which is odd, considering my usual workout music is heavy metal). There’s just a real nice bounce to this album.

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  9. Dean Colding

    I am a fan of Grace from when she first auditioned on AGT. I have followed her closely and have so enjoyed watching the world wake up this beautiful young lady who is so wise beyond her years. It is so exciting to see the people here who had never heard of her and are now captivated by this old soul as you so perfectly described her. Thanks for a great review on the album and on the artist. I feel so proud of this young lady, I can’t even imagine how her Parents and Brother and Sister feel. A quick bit of trivia, the song “Beautiful Thing” was dedicated to her sister Olivia. They are extremely close. And “A Beautiful Life” was written for her Brother Jakob, who is recovering from addiction. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      Thanks for stopping by, Dean. It’s always cool to meet fellow Grace fans! Months after writing this review, I remain addicted to this incredible album. I have tickets to see Grace at the June 21 Detroit show she’ll be doing on the Imagine Dragons tour. I am seriously looking forward to this event!

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    1. beemweeks Post author

      Hey, Eric! Thanks for stopping by. If you thought Grace was amazing on AGT, you must check out this album. This young lady has grown to the level of legitimate singer/songwriter status. She truly is gifted with a beautiful voice and a God-given talent for writing great songs.

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    2. Dean Colding

      Be sure and check your fav platform for music. Friday she is dropping a new single. A rewrite of the Johnny Nash hit “I Can See Clearly Now”. Her title is simply “Clearly”.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. beemweeks Post author

        I’ve been promoting it on social media for the past couple of days! I’m ready to buy it from iTunes as soon as it’s there. She even shared a 14 second piece of the video for the song!

        Like

    1. beemweeks Post author

      She’s fourteen now, Susanne. But she was just thirteen when she wrote and recorded the album. Just twelve when she wrote and recorded her Perfectly Imperfect EP. Thanks for stopping by.

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