Review: “Just The Beginning” marks the start for young Grace Vanderwaal

Alex Han

Grace Vanderwaal, an up-and-coming teenage star, debuts her new album “Just the Beginning.” Photo courtesy of Moxie

Grace Vanderwaal, a 13-year-old girl who won first place of the 11th season of America’s Got Talent, recently debuted, releasing a new album: “Just The Beginning” on Nov. 3, 2017. Her album soared through the Billboard top 200 albums, peaking at number 22.

“Just The Beginning” is comprised of 12 tracks which were all written by her, with “Moonlight” being a popular hit single that hit the top 50 on Billboard charts, and according to USA Today, the song was “inspired by a friend’s battles with depression.” It was also co-written by Ido Zmishlany, who had worked on “Something Big,” “Life of the Party” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” with famous pop star singer Shawn Mendes.

Tracks such as “A Better Life,” “Moonlight,” “So Much More Than This” and “Escape My Mind” are all upbeat and consist of lively indie-style drum beats, light snapping and accented up-down strums on the ukulele. The bright ukulele strumming compliments Vanderwaal’s trademark husky voice-breaks.

“Insane Sometimes,” “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me” and “Burned” are the only three songs in “Just The Beginning” that are not as buoyant and cheery as all the other songs. The three tracks have intense piano chord playing, dark synths and orchestral instruments. Vanderwaal’s strong voice also smoothly transitions from her head to chest.

In the more emotional songs, such as “Burned” and “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me,” there are more personal stories being told through the lyrics. The 13-year old music prodigy pours out her feelings into her voice, as she sings sentimentally. Her songs present life in both perspectives: the good and the bad.

I like to make little movies or fake stories about something that happened in my life. I will make a movie in my mind that would translate the same feeling or emotion that I had in whatever just happened. So [my inspiration was] a bunch of stories in the form of a song,” Vanderwaal said in a TeenVogue interview.

The lyrics in the songs are relatable for teenagers who feel oppressed by authority figures. “Sick of Being Told” is a bright song yet has a hint of Vanderwaal’s teenage rebel spirit. An example displaying her defiance is when she sings “I’ve showed you countless numbers of times that I can do it. So for just once in your whole life, just let me try it.”

In an interview, Vanderwaal had explained that she wishes to encourage and guide girls in an inspiring and positive way. Her album has a distinct purpose, to “use her incredible voice to empower young girls.”

To see fans’s smiles, and to perform it… I want anyone to take something out of the album…or if it actually made a difference in their life. I’m really excited to see the responses, whether you’re 12-years-old or you’re 23-years-old. There’s always that same message and I try my best to spread that message,” Vanderwaal said in an interview with TeenVogue.

There are multiple tracks that are well balanced by the contrast between her light ukulele strumming and her rich, emotional vocals, similar to life’s shifts through the ups and downs.

Vanderwaal has already performed in The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and the opening of the 2017 Special Olympics ceremony. In the fall of 2017, she began her sold-out U.S. tour in Los Angeles’s famous Troubadour.

Vanderwaal already has a sold-out concert in Colorado along with other shows in different states for the 2018 tour. She is a growing star and will be hosting even more tours in the future.