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 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?
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 (“I just want you here, but I also want to be alone”) contradicts Grace’s age. 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)