Aug 13, 2020
Photo Courtesy: NBC

Artist to Watch: America’s Got Talent’s Grace VanderWaal


There was a time when I was obsessed with reality competitive shows.  Everything from Survivor to Project Runway–my family watched them religiously.  But with the creation of so many shows, it became too much. Would Spencer make it through Tribal Council? Was Tim Gunn going to tell Christian to “make it work?”  I felt myself getting anxious while watching tv–which kind of defeats the purpose, am I right?

I swore I’d never get back into the obsession but this year’s season of America’s Got Talent managed to to do just that.  And it’s all thanks to their 12 year-old contestant, Grace VanderWaal.

I was sitting on the couch reading a book, as one does, while my family watched act after act take the stage in front of judges Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell.  

At a glance from behind my novel, I saw so much talent, but nothing left me breathless.  Until I watched Grace VanderWaal perform.  

A small girl with a bright preppy style and a ukulele proceeded to the microphone to introduce herself.  She had a spunky personality that shined through the nerves that comes with performing on live television.

She was going to sing an original song. I was intrigued.  I looked up from my book as she set up.  

VanderWaal’s song “I Don’t Know My Name” combined a modern folk melody with a raw blues vocal.  Her lyrics were empowering without shaming any other person, which in the music industry can be quite rare.  

Her voice contains beautiful vulnerability that reminds me of Open Mic UK winner, Birdy, as well as a raw powerhouse effect like that of artist, Elle King. It brought the audience and the judges to their feet.  But if you don’t believe watch it for yourself:

VanderWaal was the recipient of the Golden Buzzer pressed by Howie Mandel.  The buzzer sends the act past judges cuts.  At this point my book was down, and all I kept thinking was, “I NEED THAT SONG.” Along with, “SHE’S TWELVE.  CAN YOU IMAGINE WHERE SHE’LL GO FROM HERE?!”

Since her audition, I’ve looked through VanderWaal’s personal YouTube channel to hear more of her original songs and her covers of other artists.  Even with a low quality camera, this girl can sing!

VanderWaal has performed two more originals for the show, each song getting better and better than the one before.  My favorite is “Beautiful Thing.” A song about her sister, it’s a relatable tune. It’s unorthodox rhythms and sweet lyrics are fresh and new to this electronic pop era.  

The crowd loved her.

Her latest performance at the semi-finals of her song “Light the Sky” was more a mature sound.  Her ukulele was accompanied by cellist and a percussionist.

Her voice speaks for itself.  Now we all know her name.

In the meantime, you’ll know where to find me on Tuesday’s nights at 8pm–watching America’s Got Talent.  

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