Just a preface to this lyric analysis. Neither Chris Latham, Thomas Hall, Gaetan Drapeau nor myself are trying to say with our articles in the “Lyrical Grace” series that ours is the definitive interpretation of Grace’s songs. We are merely presenting our own interpretations, but a myriad of different meanings can be gleaned from Grace’s songs such is the depth and mystery of her art. Please do not be offended, or feel that our thoughts are meant to discredit yours. They are not. Our articles are intended only to demonstrate that Grace’s music is worthy of deep reflection and interpretation. We are simply trying to pay respect to an artist who thus far has been overlooked, or dismissed by music industry critics.

One of my fondest memories, though there are many and growing, as a Grace VanderWaal fan is watching the Red Bull produced concert footage from her first of two Austin City Limits Music Festival shows back in October of 2017. It was the first time any of us had ever heard the majority of the songs on her then still unreleased debut album “Just The Beginning”.

She came out on stage, giddy at the enormity of the crowd that had gathered (I’ve seen estimates ranging from between 2,500 and 5,000 of up to 8,000 people) in the middle of a heatwave under the unrelenting midday Texas sun. Her first number was Moonlight, with which we were of course all familiar at that point. Not to seem ungrateful, but I couldn’t wait for it to end as I knew she would be premiering new music, and that reveal began immediately after “Moonlight” with “Florets”.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when it started: it was a dance number, a modern and fully produced dance song, but it was also moody and atmospheric, it was sonically sophisticated, but catchy, it was everything and more than I had hoped for.

The song would eventually (a few months later) become the theme of the VanderVault, “Wherever the wind blows, ever the wind blows, don’t let go…”. That line perfectly encapsulates the need for archiving her material and a plea to be diligent and steadfast.

Here’s the entirety of the lyrics (as taken from Grace’s website)…

“I wanna wake up in dream, dream, dream
Where the air is soft to breathe, breathe, breathe
Hold on
And don’t let go
If we fall down
Then you should know
That we could just be
Blowing florets, I wanna dance in the air
Blowing florets, and just not care about anyone, or anything, but you and me
So don’t let go of me
don’t let go of me
me
I wanna rise up
With the trees, trees, trees
And let go of all responsibilities
And we could just be
Blowing florets, I wanna dance in the air
Blowing florets, and just not care about anyone, or anything, but you and me
So don’t let go of me
don’t let go of me
me
Wherever the wind blows, ever the wind blows, don’t let go
Wherever the wind blows, ever the wind blows, don’t let go
Blowing florets, I wanna dance in the air
Blowing florets, and just not care about anyone, or anything, but you and me
Don’t let go of me
Don’t let go of me
Don’t let go of me
Wherever the wind blows, ever the wind blows, don’t let go
Wherever the wind blows, ever the wind blows, don’t let go”

Let’s break it down…
“I wanna wake up in dream, dream, dream
Where the air is soft to breathe, breathe, breathe”

Let me just say up front that from the very first line Grace is showing genius already. Her use of repetition isn’t boring, it’s hypnotic, as are the words being used to instill the trance she’s weaving with this song. She is also using her words to induce an altered state of consciousness by juxtaposing our most primal states of awareness, a dream state and that of being fully conscious and awake, forcing our minds try and deal with the overload. What am I talking about? Mesmerism.

“I wanna wake up in a dream”. She’s using paradox on the very first line. She could have said (like most lyricists would), “I wanna live in a dream”, “I wanna be with you in my dream”, “I see both of us in my dreams”.

Not Grace. She wants to plunge you headlong and immediately into an altered state the better to play with your imagination, “I wanna wake up in a dream”. Brilliant. She’s not satisfied yet, of course, so she repeats the last word to further mesmerize her listener: “dream, dream, dream”.

Grace, the hypnotist, wants to make sure she has complete control over you, however, and so she relentlessly pushes you further under her spell with “Where the air is soft to breathe, breathe, breathe”. This is literally a tool of hypnosis she’s employing.

She startles your brain into a mindset it’s not familiar with by suggesting that you should be awake in a dream (pretty much the definition of a hypnotic altered state of consciousness) and drives it home by then getting you to focus on your breathing. Not only is she getting you to concentrate on what your lungs are doing, but she’s adding the suggestion that the air is soft and soothing and to take three such calming breaths in a row.

What’s the next line?
“Hold on”

She’s giving commands now to further cement her position of authority and control. She might as well be saying “listen to the sound of my voice. I am the tether, you will obey my commands”.

Next line?
“And don’t let go”

A second command to follow her lead.

Notice also that Grace is saying these lines with very deliberate pauses, the number of which follow the number of repeated words in the previous lines: “dream, dream, dream” and “breathe, breathe, breathe” subconsciously preparing the listener for the instructions to follow. She’s getting to the final command.

“If we fall down
Then you should know”

As she says those lines the music swells, lifting us up, reflecting the suspense created with her words…What should we know, Grace?

“That we could just be”
More suspense building, she’s teasing us, teetering us on the edge of a precipice, a cliffhanger.

“Blowing florets, I wanna dance in the air”

And the trance is complete. She now has us imagining that we’re weightless, floating/dancing in the air.

“Blowing florets, and just not care about anyone, or anything, but you and me”

Now she’s placing the listener alongside her, floating with the wind aimlessly, letting the whims of the breeze dictate a shared journey, and then follows it up with more suggestions, and guess what they are? More lessons taken directly from the hypnotist handbook: to exclude everyone and everything, that it is only you and the hypnotist that exist within this environment created by all of the preceding suggestions.

“So don’t let go of me
don’t let go of me
me”

More confirmation to exclude everyone, and to not let go, to stay with her on this trip she’s taking you on. “I wanna rise up With the trees, trees, trees And let go of all responsibilities” More sophisticated wordplay, use of metaphor, and hypnotism going on with those lines. She’s planting the thought of rising up again, but this time using the imagery of trees (again repeated three times), implying permanence (deep roots), but then, again like in the very first line in the song, she juxtaposes the original metaphor by suggesting that we should let go of all responsibilities (the opposite of putting down roots).

She has our brains reeling again by the use of paradox, has us begging for guidance in this other strange thought she’s implanted. Don’t worry, Grace is in full control and repeats the chorus again, letting you know that you should not let go of her, that she is your only tether back to reality, to not care about anyone or anything but you and her, that the wind blows everywhere, and always will, but that together you can exist without care or responsibility…as long as you hold on and don’t let go of her.

Yeah, that’s Grace’s dance song on the album.

Genius.

This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XydnaaaaSnE&lc=UgzdpkinST-xC4ELA_t4AaABAg