“America’s Got Talent” phenom Grace VanderWaal stuns in her first full-length debut. The 12-track album comes after her 2016 EP “Perfectly Imperfect,” which showcased songs she performed on the show, but “Just The Beginning” is filled with original tunes and a mature sound.
The 13-year-old is known for strumming the ukulele and kicks off the album with uke-heavy “Moonlight.” However, that’s where the reliance on the strings ends.
The second and third tracks, “Sick of Being Told” and “Burned” respectively, depart from the ukulele using a strong piano sound and pop beats. In both songs, VanderWaal sings with a maturity beyond her years of someone who’s done wrong and is getting what they deserve in “Burned” and of someone who just wants to be on their own in “Sick of Being Told.”
The fourth track, however, reminds the listener VanderWaal is still a young singer as she sings of someone who is “Just A Crush.” She sings about someone she’s interested in, but is aware it’s a fleeting moment with lyrics like “You’re talking about a marriage and a life together / honey I’m not looking for anything like what you’re searching for.”
The fifth track is a downright good time as she breaks out her voice for powerful choruses and bumping beats alongside a company of instruments. “So Much More Than This” showcases her mature songwriting once more as she sings how there is more to life than one moment and day.
The next two songs, “Escape My Mind” and “Talk Good” are toe-tappers with a groovy feel as she sings about being awkward — a trait she often uses to describe herself in interviews. While it speaks to a personal issue for VanderWaal, it is a universal feeling many can relate to.
“Florets” is perhaps the most stylistically different from the style VanderWaal has shown so far. It is filled with swelling builds and radio-worthy beats from chorus to verse and back again. Though different, it is a worthy experimentation on the singer’s part.
Picking up the tail end of the album, “Insane Sometimes” is a crowdpleaser and speaks to enjoying life, music and company in the simplest of ways. It shows that VanderWaal is more than a short-haired, ukulele-strumming adolescent — she can really sing and reach an audience. The background music builds and VanderWaal abandons her ukulele altogether, giving the listener a preview of what may come from the Kansas native in the future.
The third-to-last song, “A Better Life,” changes pace for a slow, powerful ballad about creating a better life for yourself. The second-to-last track, “City Song,” matches the pace of “Insane Sometimes” and “Florets,” and is sure to make the listener dance.
The last track, “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me,” is a darker, mature look at what it’s like to deal with depressive thoughts. For a young teenager, it is wildly old-souled and honest. Lyrics like “The darkness tries to chase me / and my legs are getting tired of running / please don’t let it get to me,” bring a frighteningly unfiltered image to the listener's mind. She goes for the explosive notes and brings the album to a close in a hauntingly beautiful way.
“Just The Beginning” is aptly named. It’s easy to see VanderWaal is far more mature than her years. She’s left room for herself to grow and explore other types of material, lyrically and musically, and leaves the audience ready to see what she has in store for us next.
Listen to "Just The Beginning" below.