The Indomitable Spirit of Grace VanderWaal (We’re All Just Scared Little Girls)


Modern music has so incredibly lost touch with what’s true and important about personal expression that most music listeners are left wondering if they’ll ever again hear music that touches them like their favorites did years before, or elicit a sense of wonder through the vehicle of soundscapes and story. There are too many dingy layers to modern life, too much technology disrupting our perceptions to even allow the germ of an original though or creative expression to blossom into a truly enchanting moment, or allow our attention spans to latch onto it even if it passes right under our noses.

But perhaps youth does not carry that same burden. They’re not yet jaded and broken, and still believe in big things, and are fearless enough to unburden their hearts unfettered in a way that is brilliant simply from its pureness and unguarded nature.

What can a 12-year-old singer girl on a 2nd-rate summer season reality talent show tell us about ourselves? It’s just a novelty, right?

We love to hoot for young instrumental maestros who wow us with dexterity that’s often nothing more than well-disciplined and rehearsed muscle memory, but we still don’t listen to what they’re trying to say to us, even though this is the age of the songwriter in music. Affluence has made simple instrumental brilliance rampant in youth. But they haven’t lived enough life to be any authority about the emotions of love, acceptance, doubt, and self-loathing. Or so we tell ourselves. It’s just one of those many dingy layers of prejudice life places upon us the more revolutions we take around the sun.

Ultimately, we’re all just scared little girls. All of us. Everybody. Waffling between blind self-arrogance and abject self-doubt. And the more rough and tumble we appear on the exterior, the more we puff our chest out and affirm ourselves, the more mature we claim to be, the more hostile and guarded we are towards others, the more this maxim rings true. The big burly men with thick beards, metal bits in their face, and sleeves of tattoos poking through motorcycle attire might be the most fearful of us all. That’s why they hide behind their machismo.

But we’re all just scared little girls, just like Grace Vanderwaal. She’s just one of the few with the guts to express it.

And maybe just as marveling is that for a change, people actually listened.

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Grace VanderWall was the winner of Season 11 of America’s Got Talent.