The Differences Are The Point is an early Grace song which is of interest for several reasons, most notably because it was her first real collaboration. It also has the distinction of being written and sung as a duet. Another difference from Grace’s other work is that its lyrics are literal – there’s no complex word play or metaphor going on here.

By the way, the song was also occasionally introduced as ‘The Difference Is The Point’, but as the title is the last line of the song, which is always sung as ‘ . . . differences are the point’, the proper title seems obvious. What isn’t so obvious, however, are the actual true lyrics, as they do not appear in Grace’s website, thus nothing to be considered canon. As there are only three known sung versions – one at Bean Runner Cafe, one at the Ramapo Concert at Boulder Stadium, and a final performance at Lafayette Theatre – we can only glean the lyrics by listening. And if you hadn’t noticed, if there is one criticism that can legitimately be leveled at Grace, it’s of her tendency to mumble through certain lyrics. With Grace, you just do not get the utter clarity of pronunciation like you did with, say, Karen Carpenter, who never seemed to slur or drop a single syllable. But Grace is still young, so we can give her a pass on that. It just means we’ll have to do a little interpretive work to get ‘close’ to the true lyrics.

Before we dive in, it’s necessary to mention Dylan Kay (Dylan Kelehan), collaborator on this song, duet partner, Grace’s first one-on-one music teacher, and the one probably most responsible for preparing her to work with other musicians on-stage. Even though he was only involved with her music education for a short time, his influence seems to have been quite profound. It also seems certain that Grace really admired him, for she seemed to constantly look to him for approval of her performances. In performance after performance, there’s always this quick look over to him, as if asking, ‘How did I do? Was that okay?’, and he returning an approving smile. I think it went a long way towards building Grace’s confidence. (As an aside, he also seems to have derived an enormous amount of pleasure in teasing her whenever the opportunity arose, making him a man after my own heart. For what other reason were tweens put on this earth, if not to tease?)

One major point to consider about this song, is who contributed what? For that, we’re going to have to resort to pure speculation. I’ve pretty much convinced myself that Dylan was largely responsible for the melody, and that the lyrics are Grace’s, with suggestions coming from Dylan. My reasoning about the melody are simple enough: several times during the song, Dylan plays a riff that fits the song perfectly. But that riff, and the familiarity with which he seems to play it, makes me think it came from his bag of riffs. Most every guitarist invents and has at the ready a catalogue of riffs they develop over the years, and this one seems to be one of those. So I think Dylan pulled out and dusted off a favored riff from his youth, quickly built a melody around it, and voilà!, instant song. Grace just needed to add the words. But do remember, this is pure speculation, and I can certainly be (and quite often am) completely wrong.

Anyway, on to the lyrics for ‘The Differences Are The Point’, a perfect Pixar summer movie theme song if ever there was one. Lyrics in parentheses ( ) are second voice parts. Multiple choice lyrics in braces, { } / { }, represent alternative wording where clarity is lacking.

The Differences Are The Point
by Dylan Kay and Grace VanderWaal

What a nice day it is today
You say to me
Behind the glass things hide behind that
You cannot see
Runny noses, Bumble bees,
Ticks hiding in the trees,
Pollen blowing in the breeze,
Can’t you see?
(Can’t you see?)
Crying kids, Cracked up knees,
Can I go inside now please?
Summer’s just begun
When will it be done?

[Chorus]
Just another season here
I don’t think that it’s very fair that
When winter comes around
Nobody ever seems to come back
Ooh

Doo dadoo da doo doo doodoodoo doodoodoo
Door dadoo da doodoodoodoo doo dadoo
Da doodoodoo doo doo doodoodoo

{But I guess that blue warmth sure}/
{Well I guess that new water show}
Beats the cold
The sun can be good for you
Or so I am told
Butterflies are pretty neat,
Kids are playing in the street,
{The sunburn when you don’t got sun screen
(Sun screen)}/
{Those suburban New York cops saw me scream
(Saw me scream)}
Bugs are biting me all day,
{But not when I have spray}/
{But when I have space}
Summer’s just begun
And I admit it’s kinda fun

[Chorus]
Just another season here
I don’t think that it’s very fair that
When winter comes around
Nobody ever seems to come back
Ooh

{It’s so nice}/{I guess} I can finally swim inside the pool
When it gets too hot
We can go inside with the a\c and be cool
(A two, three, four)
There’s no school
I can sleep through my alarm {now}/{clock}
(BEEP!)
And the ice cream man is on his way
(His way)
Camping trips, Fishing lines,
{Having fully welcome times}/
{Havin’ totally awesome times}/
{Having gold we-all-go times}/
{That I ha go be ah goo times} What!?!
Summer’s just begun
I don’t want it to be done

[Final chorus]
Just another season here
And I’m starting to like the fresh air
When winter comes around
Everybody seems to frown
It’s not just the
{season or the situation}
{same ol’ boring situation}/
{seedy of the situation}/
{same but it’s the jubilation}
I’m getting excited for summer vacation
The differences are the point

I’m not going to bother doing a breakdown of the song, since it needs no interpretation – its words mean what they say, simple as that. Instead, lets just look at the confusing parts. I spent hours listening to all three versions, at 25% speed, trying to get the lyrics right. I’m not really sure how she does it, but Grace has the uncanny ability to mumble the same exact phrases in the same exact places, with several days, or even weeks separating the performances. Truly remarkable, and another sure sign that she’s gifted (yes, I’m being facetious – it comes from being frustrated.)

I did manage one breakthrough, though. It came with the line from the second verse, ‘Those suburban New York cops saw me scream’. In several attempts by other folks to get the lyrics right, this was the most common interpretation. And yes, that’s exactly what it sounded like she was singing. Revelation came, though, when I quit trying to understand what Grace was singing, and instead listened to Dylan, as that particular line has him echoing the final words. Lo and behold, he wasn’t singing ‘saw me scream’, he was singing, ‘sun screen’. The rest of the line fell into place after that, though several words in the middle are still up for debate. ‘The sunburn when you don’t got sun screen’ makes so much more sense, and also presents a bit of play with the wording, since several lines earlier she’d sung, ‘The sun can be good for you, or so I am told’. That ‘or so I am told’ has a pointed meaning if you’re told to go play outside because the sun’s good for you, only to come back inside hours later with burnt arms and legs. A painful memory that, methinks.

Another line that I think I got right is the first line of the second verse, which is usually translated (from the secret language called gracesmumblespeak) as ‘Well I guess that new water show’, which made no sense at all. But it helps to know that Grace sings with a cockney accent (for some reason I can’t quite fathom), so the word ‘sure’ comes out as ‘show’, and ‘warmth’ loses some of its warmth and becomes wet, as in ‘water’. ‘New’, of course, is a new fangled way to pronounce ‘blue’, and the rest of the words are sort of as is. Thus in translation you get, ‘But I guess that blue warmth sure’, which makes much more sense when added to the following line, ‘beats the cold’. Oh, and just so happens to reduce the four syllable phrase ‘sunny blue sky’ into the equivalent two syllable phrase ‘blue warmth’. Clever girl, that Grace.

In several other places I just had to throw my hands up in defeat. In the last verse, ‘Camping trips, Fishing lines,’ is followed by what sounds like ‘ha be oh ge bo goo times’, and I don’t have a clue what that translates to, as I don’t speak ancient Egyptian. You’re welcome to give it your best shot. I included others attempts at it, so good luck. And lastly, the third line from the end, whose final word seems to be ‘situation’. The words before that, who knows?

Lastly, the question we all want answered is, “Will we ever hear ‘The Differences Are the Point’ in an actual studio recording?” My best guess is that we will probably never hear Grace sing it again. My reasoning is simple enough: this song is as much Dylan’s as it is Grace’s. Although he could certainly give permission for Grace to record it (along with earning at least 50% of whatever writer’s royalties are paid), I just don’t see Grace recording this if Dylan isn’t part of the recording process. Grace just comes across to me as a very loyal person, such that she couldn’t bear to record this without Dylan. Would he be willing to be involved? Who knows. On the other hand, the song could be picked as an actual theme song for some Pixar or Disney movie, maybe requiring only a few lyrical changes. Grace and Dylan might then be enticed to record it, just for the movie. We can always hope.

This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yfl9ID8F0g&lc=UgwXk7QMxlF_yH3G5wR4AaABAg