A huge round of applause filled the entire hall as a young girl finished her original song with only a small ukulele in her hands. The 12-year-old girl from New York rocked out the first round of the 2016 America’s Got Talent (AGT) without any hesitation. Before her performance, Simon Cowell, a judge on AGT, asked her if she believed that she could win the show. “I believe miracles can happen, so possibly,” was her answer. And indeed, the miracle became a reality.
Grace Vanderwaal is a 15-year-old American singer-songwriter, who earned world-wide attention by becoming the final winner of the 2016 AGT. Vanderwaal began her musical career by posting her original songs on YouTube. She then participated in the eleventh season of the NBC Television (TV) competition show AGT. Simon Cowell highly praised her talent, calling Vanderwaal the next Taylor Swift. Her successful signing with Columbia Records broadened this young singer’s musical career.
▲ Vanderwaal's first single in 2019 - "Stray". Provided by Genius
“Stray” is the first single of Vanderwaal released in 2019. One of the noticeable features of the song is its lyrics. The song, which is full of reminiscing thoughts such as “to feel the way I used to,” “write a song,” and “feel my words,” hovers around the rims of listeners’ ears. In an interview with USA Today, Vanderwaal stated that she was afraid of losing her own ability to write songs, as the songs she wrote during her tour were not released.
Since Vanderwaal became famous for her original songs, “writing her own lyrics and melodies” meant a lot for this young singer. Nevertheless, writing originals was not always successful for her. The lyrics of “Stray” straightforwardly describes her firm desire to write the songs she wants. Moreover, according to an interview with Bustle, an online American magazine, she explained that the song is about finding one’s way through unsure ground as one grows up and allowing one’s personality to mature.
Along with its lyrics, the music video for “Stray” is another spectacular factor. The scenes of Vanderwaal wandering around the desert in two different costumes – one black and one white – visually delivers the message of the lyrics to the viewers. Vanderwaal riding a bicycle in a black dress with eyes covered, well reflects the lyrical themes of adulthood and identity. The melodies collaborate with the video to arouse anxiety and worry in people’s minds, which makes the song clearly fit into its title – “Stray.”
Referring to Bustle, Vanderwaal added that the track is especially impressive for her because she had a break while working on the song, which was quite unusual for her typical habit. “Usually, if I am going to write a song, I have to finish it then or I will never be able to revisit it because I am out of that moment and that momentum is lost,” said Vanderwaal. Luckily, a sudden idea popped up in her head which drove her to finish straying and get back on track.
Grace Vanderwaal won the 2017 Radio Disney Music Awards and the Teen Choice Awards, while being nominated twice for Billboard magazine’s under-21 music star list. These achievements are unbelievable for such a young artist. Nevertheless, such awards do not just stand for success. The overflow of media attention can be burdensome for a girl in her mid-teens. This is why the new track “Stray” is a noteworthy work for Grace Vanderwaal, and it seems that the song will assist her in turning into a mature, the next Taylor Swift just as Cowell said.