Grace VanderWaal’s “Just the Beginning” is honest and unique

Grace VanderWaal’s “Just the Beginning” is honest and unique

By Ryan Wallis, news correspondent

Since the start of young Grace VanderWaal’s career, there has been an ongoing media obsession with referring to her as “the next Taylor Swift.” The biggest issue with that is: We already have a Taylor Swift — a darn good one — and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. This narrative has surrounded VanderWaal for the majority of her burgeoning career and even more so now, as the two coincidentally release full-length albums one week apart.

The comparison certainly does have its merits — they are both singer-songwriters and, for the most part, stake their claim in the pop genre. Artistically, however, they diverge. It’s much more apt to refer to VanderWaal not as a second Taylor Swift, but rather the very first Grace VanderWaal.

In VanderWaal’s debut album “Just the Beginning,” released Nov. 3, she transcends this one-dimensional comparison and demonstrates the depth of her vocal ability. There is meaning behind every word of the album, and the purity of each message keeps it from being just another pop album.

VanderWaal puts on a vocal display throughout the album’s 12 songs, channeling artists like Sia as she reaches for the high registers of “A Better Life,” and exhibiting the soulfulness of her voice in songs like “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me” and “Florets.” The album’s pinnacle comes about two-thirds of the way through “City Song,” in which VanderWaal smoothly launches for the final chorus and assuages any doubts about her vocal range.

VanderWaal has writing credits on all 12 songs on the album and is listed as the sole writer for eight of them. Her writing comes directly from her life experiences, and it’s quite refreshing to hear the 13-year-old not trying to be anything more than just that — a 13-year-old. There is no forced edginess, and she isn’t trying to portray herself as something other than what she is, which gives the album an increasingly rare sense of honesty.

Her songs give a genuine perspective on the issues affecting the early teenage way of life. “Sick of Being Told,” for example, displays the push and pull relationship between teen mind and authority, singing “I want to run away, just to live my life my way.”

Other songs eclipse the intended youthful audience and connect with broader audiences. The album’s lead single “Moonlight” is extremely sophisticated and showcases her mastery of metaphor. VanderWaal interlays a deep message about friendships and depression within an upbeat melody and catchy chorus.

Overall, the album is much better than expected, and although there are a few songs that just didn’t hit it for me, that’s the beauty of her writing: There is meaning to be found across many audience demographics.

More to Discover