“Just the Beginning” Album Review

Grace Vanderwaal has accomplished a lot in the year since winning the hit show America’s Got Talent. Despite being only 13 years old, she’s already released an EP, had a show in Vegas, and has now dropped a full-length album. Though her minimalist style of instrumentalism feels a bit overdone and some tracks altogether feel incomplete, Vanderwaal’s youth and unique perspective on life, love, and growing up shine through to make an impressive first album for the up and coming artist.

The lyricism Vanderwaal displays throughout the album is outstanding, even without respect to her age.  She doesn’t shy away from letting the listener peer into her personal life with lyrics like “The whole crowd seems to like me now because they think but back when I was in school they found it very easy to hate me.” Aside from her way with words, VanderWaal finds a way to provide a youthful perspective to freshen up the love songs we are so used to. Songs like Just a Crush and Moonlight talk about her experiences with young love in a young, innocent way with lyrics like “Yes, it’d be nice to hold your hands,” and “The light from your eyes made it feel like we were dancing in the moonlight.” There’s a couple stand out tracks, like Burned, with its haunting piano balladry accompanying VanderWaal’s especially raspy voice, and the lead single from the album, So Much More Than This, with a beat led by catchy guitar plucks reminiscent of an Ed Sheeran track.

This is not to say there are not some flaws in the album. The ukulele driven style VanderWaal won America’s Got Talent with becomes a bit overdone on the album, with songs like Moonlight, Just a Crush, and Escape My Mind all predominantly featuring a ukulele. Other songs feel half-baked, which are accentuated by the fact that there are some real stand outs on the album that make you feel as though these could have been much improved. The album rings of VanderWaal trying to find her sound, with some styles suiting her voice perfectly, like A Better Life where the raw power of VanderWaal’s voice really shines and others feeling like she’s trying to change her voice to fit the song, like in Insane Sometimes, where it feels like she is subduing her style to achieve more pop style vocals.

All in all, Grace VanderWaal’s first album is much more of a hit than a miss. Despite it being her official debut, she has demonstrated an accomplished skill for music writing and her singular vocal style has set her apart from so many other artists.