I’m at the point in my life where nothing much really surprises me anymore. I’m mid-fifties, born and raised in southern California. I’ve traveled and experienced quite a bit in my blessed life. In my myopic mind, there isn’t much I haven’t seen. But every so often an event, person, or thing happens that lets you see yourself and life in a different light than you had before. You recognize because of this “thing” that there is more to it than what you might have thought. You are surprised. You are happy. You smile. You marvel at the genius.
Approximately 2 months ago I was bumping around the internet, hitting all my spots to keep up on the world. I went to America’s Got Talent channel on YouTube and saw that their latest round of auditions had been posted. I clicked on a young girl playing the ukelele, thinking she had to be pretty gutsy to audition with that instrument. She came on stage and I was struck by her innocence. Her name was Grace Vanderwall and she was 12 years old. We find out that she is a song writer and will be singing one of her originals. Her answers to the questions the judges asked her were not self-deprecating, but from the heart and very sweet. When asked if she thought she could win, she answered, “Well, I don’t know, maybe, I mean, miracles do happen.” Oh man, she had me at miracles. I’ve watched plenty of talent shows on TV the last 5 years because there is something about somebody you don’t know performing at a level that makes your mouth drop wide open that is very satisfying. It gives me hope. Oh, did I tell you I tried out for America’s Got Talent? Don’t ask.
And then she started to play her song, I Don’t Know My Name. It was quite obvious from the first five seconds that she was special. Her voice is very unique. It is not, NOT, main stream. Her pitch and tones, you think are a bit off, but I think she means for them to be because when it comes together, it’s perfect. The song she sang was about her trying to find her own identity in this world. WHAT? It was brilliant. The judges were mesmerized. The audience stared in wonder at this skinny, little creature teaching us that you can NEVER judge a book. Her genius was instinctive in her vocals and song writing. I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me?”
After finishing her song, the crowd went crazy, the judges were on their feet, and poor Grace stood there on stage, with her hands over her mouth, overwhelmed by the wave of adulation from the thousands of people watching her. It was just one of those moments for me. You didn’t see genius before she sang. When she was done, you knew you had seen someone blessed by God with a talent. It couldn’t have been more obvious. AND EVERYONE KNEW IT. Simon said(get it), “I predict you are going to be the next Taylor Swift.” I know, I know, it’s his show, but I’ve never heard him say anything remotely similar to anyone else after hearing two minutes of their work. The girl judges loved her and then it was capped off by Howie tell her, “I think it is so right and so wrong that nobody knows your name because after tonight, everybody is going to know your name.” And with that, he hit the golden buzzer. Gold confetti flies down from the ceiling, Grace breaks down crying, and her sister rushes onto the stage to give her support. The golden buzzer means she goes directly through to the Live shows, no more competing in the regular rounds. Each judge gets one golden buzzer per season. And she was Howies’. The crowd is roaring and I am crying.
Her performance of I Don’t Know My Name has been viewed over 33 million times at the time of this writing. She has become a sensation. But there is more, Johnny. She has a YouTube channel named, Oh Never Mind, it’s Just Me. It is filled with this tiny, quirky, eccentric young lady singing originals that are outstanding and putting her spin on a few covers. You also get to admire her wardrobe of cat ears, unicorns,and too big clothes. Love it.
Grace and her Mom decided to film their adventure to L.A. for the live shows and did Facebook live for 8 days leading up to the night. They are recorded and on her Mom’s channel. I love it because you see the purity. Nobody has stepped in and tried to change her. And they will try, I’m sure. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up Janet Devlin or Carly Rose Soneclar. Both were brilliant in their auditions but as the show progressed they became more and more slicker. That’s my way of describing it. They were obviously being made into something they were not. That bothers me. Don’t the producers of these shows realize the reason people vote for them is because of who they are and not what you want them to be?
Anyhoo, fast forward two months and we are now at the live shows. Of course, the producers hold her til the very end of the very last live show to get the best ratings. She sings another original, Beautiful Thing, a song about her relationship with her sister. That’s only been viewed 3.3 million times but it has just been out a couple weeks. Out of the park. Home Run. A-frickin-mazing. Of course, she went on to the semi-finals which are tonight.
I am writing this because once in a while we see the purity of raw genius before the “experts” come in. You recognize it and you appreciate it. This is me appreciating Grace.
I do hope Matthew West’s song comes true, “Grace wins every time.” Out of context?