“I did it! I did it! I did it!”

At my current stage of life, being both a parent and grandparent, I find no greater joy than in watching little children discover new things in a world that has become old and familiar to me. Whether it’s their wide-eyed wonder when watching a brightly colored butterfly flutter by, or their awe of the mysterious when the winking of floating lights on a midsummer’s eve signals that lightning bugs are present, their joy of discovery becomes a joy to me. But of all their looks of joy, perhaps the best of all is the look in their eyes when they discover that they can, indeed, do it – whatever ‘it’ happens to be.

Take learning to ride a bike. As my father did for me, I remember well when more than one of my own children, wanting to be like the older kids, begged me to remove their training wheels. I’d ask, “Are you sure you’re ready? You could fall down.” They’d reply, “Daddy, please, I want to do it!” And so I’d nod, say “Okay”, remove their training wheels, and then huff and puff as I chased after them, keeping them from falling over. And most every time I’d hear, their voices full of excitement and fear at the same time, “Don’t let go, daddy! Don’t let go!” And I’d be running right along beside, puffing out the assurance, “Don’t worry, I won’t,” even though I’d already let go fifty feet back. And soon I wouldn’t be right next to them, but they wouldn’t even notice. And though unsteady at first, it wouldn’t be but a few minutes before they got the hang of it and were no longer afraid, and were circling back to me to show off their new skill. That look on their face, that ‘I did it!’, those are priceless memories. And then later, on the phone with the grandparents, their excitement as they declared, “Gramma! Grampa! I did it! I did it! I did it! Daddy took off my training wheels, and I rode my bike all by myself!” Priceless.

So what does any of that have to do with ‘Just A Crush’ (JAC), you might ask? Nothing whatsoever. And everything. Grace premiered JAC at BeanRunner Cafe on February 14 of 2017, just a day shy of one month since turning 13. Think of it, she was a newly minted 13-year-old, who’d never had even a puppy-love relationship with any boy, let alone one seeking marriage, and had never even had a crush on anyone. Yet here she was, giving us a song that gently, but firmly, put a suitor in his place, right back in the friendzone. It was as if Grace were saying, “Hey, you know that Taylor Swift comparison? Yeah, I can do that, too.”

And her performance of JAC also put to rest (or at least should have) the whiney nonsense of her critics when they complained that she can’t sing, as JAC has a chorus comprised largely of the single word, ‘just’, sung in such a way that would severely test the vocal chops of even the most accomplished singer. Watch some of the amateur attempts at this song (I have yet to find any by professional singers) and you’ll know what I mean. No need to practice scales, a singer merely need to master JAC the way Grace sings it to get all the vocal exercise they need.

But of course I digress. Where’s the “I did it!” in that performance? Well, that came after the end, when Grace went on to tell the patrons of BeanRunner about all that had happened since the last time she was there, a year earlier on the previous Valentines Day. You could see the excitement on her face and hear it in her voice. That “I did it! I did it! I did it!”, as if the patrons were more than just friends, but were in fact close family (which she even called them). Of course, we all know that it was at BeanRunner that Grace first rode her bike without training wheels – to borrow the analogy – gaining experience and being encouraged by the patrons there. And with just that little bit of encouragement, she not only rode her bike down the street, but across the country to the big stage at the Dolby Theatre, and all the way to her first place finish on AGT. And the folks at BeanRunner were proud of her. You could tell. Heck, I was proud of her, too.

And now, a year later, she was back, but not without a new bike-trick to wow her family with. “Watch me!” she was saying, “I’m gonna ride a wheelie!” And what a wheelie JAC was. The fact that it was a heartbreaker song, of sorts, sung on Valentines Day, seems too much of a coincidence. My feeling is that Grace wanted new material to sing to impress her BeanRunner family, but couldn’t sing any of her recently recorded work due to contractual limitations. So I think she wrote JAC specifically for her performance that night, sneaking around the edges of her contract. She may have even written it that morning, or at most within a few days of her scheduled appearance. Given that the video of that performance was pulled from her Youtube site less than a day after she uploaded it lends some credence to that theory. She probably got a royal chewing out from her label about it, too. And the fact that the lyrics were slightly changed (for the worse) in every performance afterwards also bolsters that idea. More on that later.

So let’s go ahead and have a look at the lyrics. Two versions, one canon, one BeanRunner, are merged here, with ‘official’ canon parts in parentheses (), and the BeanRunner differences in brackets [].

You’re lookin’ at me
I’m lookin’ at you
Is this ever gonna (solve)[sort] it’s self out
I don’t know what (it)[we] will do
Cause you’re talking ’bout a marriage
and a life together
(No)[But] honey I’m not lookin’ for anything
like what you’re searching for, ah oh

You’re just, just, just, you are, (you are,) just a crush

I hope you understand
what I’m (telling) [trying to tell] you
I don’t wanna be confusing
consider me one of the dudes
(I guess It) [Yes, it would] be nice
to hold hands once in a while
But you’re over here planning like wild
Yes you’re talking ’bout a marriage
and a life together
(No)[But] honey I’m not lookin’ for anything
like what you’re searching for, ah oh

You’re just, just, (oh) just, you are, (you are,)

(I’m sorry) [No] I don’t want no tears
It’d be worse if I faked you out all of these years
(I’m sorry I don’t want no tears)
[I know this may be hard to hear]
So let me just say it (now), perfectly clear

You’re just, just, just, you are, [you are just a crush]
(Just, just, oh just, you are, you are, just a crush)

So here we go:

You’re lookin’ at me
I’m lookin’ at you

From the first moment, Grace sets for us a scene of protagonist/antagonist, though we don’t know which side to take. What we do know is that it’s a scene of smoldering conflict. This isn’t a wonderful time for either of them, because if she’d meant it to be a ‘Darling I love you’ moment, she’d have said it far differently. In fact, it sort of reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting, the one titled ‘Election Day’. Google it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Is this ever gonna (solve)[sort] it’s self out
I don’t know what (it)[we] will do

We now get confirmation of our conflict theory. Of interest is that our protagonist professes uncertainty about what to do concerning the situation, though the rest of the song speaks of her knowing exactly what she wants. I suppose the real uncertainty, though, is in how to let the other down as gently as possible. Note: she doesn’t manage to do that.

Cause you’re talking ’bout a marriage
and a life together
(No)[But] honey I’m not lookin’ for anything
like what you’re searching for, ah oh

And now we know exactly what the conflict is. He wants her to be his missus; she wants no part of it. That a 13 year old could write about this deeply adult subject with such understanding is really eye opening. Most girls Grace’s age would view marriage in a sort of Disney ‘Happily-Ever-After’ way. When a prince charming comes along, any prince charming, then whatever follows will be bliss. That Grace could instead consider a marriage proposal from the point of view of a young woman weighing her options and judging whether this particular suitor is the one she’s ready to spend her life with is really telling. Grace may only be 13, but she easily understands human relationships at the level of a 25-year-old. (And how many 25-year-olds only understand at the level of a 13-year-old? Far too many, I think.)

You’re just, just, just, you are, (you are,) just a crush

To be continued tomorrow

This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yfl9ID8F0g&lc=Ugzmyz5OM3ebTXemYk94AaABAg