On the recent Season 3 premiere of of the NBC reality competition show World of Dance, junior contemporary dancer Lauren Yakima’s routine was critiqued by the panel of judges over a backing track of popular music. In this case, the song was Grace VanderWaal’s “Moonlight”, selected by the World of Dance production staff and used via a licensing agreement with the music rights-holders. As was discussed in an op-ed last September, these agreements, whether they’re sync licenses, master use licenses or performance fees, can be both lucrative and productive for new and established artists. Aside from earning royalties and fees as both the writer and performer of the songs, Grace gets additional exposure from each of these opportunities which helps her remain in the public eye (or ear). Listed below is a retrospective look at 10 previous instances where Grace’s words, music, vocals and/or instrumental performances were utilized for various purposes over a wide selection of media forms:
Google Year in Search – December 2016
Based on their own metrics, Google produces a yearly two-minute commercial which combines the most iconic images and sounds from many of the year’s most popular search entries. Based in good part upon the popularity of Grace’s AGT audition, the fifth-most-viral video of 2016, it wasn’t unreasonable to suspect that she might deserve some small part in the 2016 edition. For Grace’s fans, the results exceeded their wildest expectations. Starting at the 26-second mark, the ad goes on to include a full one-and-a-half minutes of audio (and 2.5 seconds of video) of her AGT quarter-final round performance of ‘Light The Sky’. The music served as both theme music and counterbalance to the series of disturbing and unsettling images of war, terrorism and loss.
The commercial made the rounds of the advertising awards competitions worldwide, and went on to be chosen as one of the five nominees for the 2017 Emmy for Outstanding Commercial. For the entries to at least some of those competitions, Google made a special submission video consisting of a stylized version of the original commercial but which also included additional clips from AGT, Ellen, and the Today Show, along with the following set of captions:
2016 left us speechless
But one voice came to represent light in a dark year
So when Google’s Year in Search film
Set out to celebrate a year most people wanted to forget
We used Grace’s performance of ‘Light The Sky’
To inspire a new look at the year.
Fun Fact: The commercial aired only twice, including once just after midnight (EST) on the Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve show, yet over the first two weeks after its premiere was viewed on television or online more than 30 million times for a total of more than 36 years worth of viewing time.
The Fosters – March, 2017
As Callie (Maia Mitchell) walks along the beach with brother Jude (Hayden Byerly) trying to find a way to say goodbye with the threat of prison hanging over her head, strumming ukulele chords transform into the edited chorus of ‘Beautiful Thing’. The song was used at the request of one of the executive producers, a fan of Grace’s music who felt the song would work well within the format of the family-oriented series.
Fun Fact: This episode has the highest IMDB voter-rankings for the entire season.
World of Dance, Season 1 – July, 2017
The Mihacevich Sisters used ‘Beautiful Thing’ and a couch prop for their performance In the junior division’s cut round. In a routine highlighting their strong sibling connection, the trio of teenage contemporary dancers performed for a television audience of just under 7 million viewers.
Fun Fact: In previous rounds of the competition, the sisters performed to music by Sia and Demi Lovato.
Windex, ‘The Story of Lucy’ – August, 2017
Windex used almost the entirety of the studio version of ‘Beautiful Thing’ for its three-minute mini-epic commercial made by BBDO, exploring the father-daughter bond from her birth through adulthood ending in her own pregnancy and delivery. Besides its viewer-voted accolade as #TheYouTubeAd That Goes Straight To The Heart, the tearjerker was on the 2018 Clio Award shortlist for Film Technique (Direction). Though the full video was never televised, two 15-second spots were made out of segments of the full video, and combined had more than 4,400 national airings in a four-month stretch in late 2017.
Fun Fact: One of the two television spots, showing the delivery room scene at the beginning of the story, was given the official title ‘The Story of Lucy: Just the Beginning’
Honda N-Series, Japan – August, 2017
During the summer of 2017, Honda Motor Company partnered with several ad agencies to use covers of ‘Over the Rainbow’ from the Wizard of Oz in different international markets as part of it’s decade-old Power of Dreams campaign. In Europe, a version of the song recorded by indie duo Joy Downer was used to promote several of Honda’s car brands including the Civic and CR-V. Using a track recorded at Sony studios in Tokyo in June during Grace’s first trip to Japan, Honda produced a 2:10-long concept video for the Honda N-Series automobiles showing the vehicles in a variety of recreational settings. Several 30-second edits were produced for Japanese TV with the voiceover tagline “N for Life”. Grace was credited in the video for several seconds with a watermark showing her name and a musical note.
Fun Fact: ‘Over the Rainbow’ was released as bonus track on the Japanese version of Just The Beginning.
Sims 4: Cats and Dogs, November 2017
For the Electronic Arts game The Sims 4, a unique version of ‘Moonlight’ was included and available within the Cats and Dogs expansion pack. Recorded by Grace in Simlish (gibberish substituted for an actual language) the song used the original instrument and backing vocal tracks. Though this expansion pack also introduced the ‘Singer/Songwriter’ radio station, ‘Moonlight’ is accessible in-game as radio station music on the ‘Pop’ channel. Other artists to re-record their songs in Simlish for the series of games include Katy Perry, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jason Derulo, My Chemical Romance, and Carly Rae Jepsen.
Fun Fact: This version of the song gained additional recognition after being heard on YouTuber Deligracy’s Let’s Play videos for the expansion pack.
Apple iPhone Siri Commercial – December, 2017
In conjunction with the MTV Push Artist series of performances and interviews, Apple and MTV teamed up for a 10-second ad promoting both Siri and the MTV app. The ad includes a video clip from Grace’s MTV studio performance of “So Much More Than This”, which was recorded on November 2, 2017. The short commercial was shown 19 times on MTV while Grace was the Push Artist of the Month.
Fun Fact: The promotional campaign also included similar ads featuring SZA and Why Don’t We.
American Idol, Season 16 – March, 2018
During the emotional introduction for 19-year-old special education teacher Maddie Zahm’s audition for Season 16 of American Idol, ‘Beautiful Thing’ was once again employed as background music to underline a strong emotional bond, this time between Maddie and her friend Marcus. In this particular case, the license agreement likely didn’t extend beyond broadcast usage because in the the version of the audition video posted on American Idol’s YouTube channel, Grace’s song was replaced with an innocuous instrumental.
Fun fact: Maddie’s audition song was Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’, and the broadcast of her audition segment was just over four months after Grace appeared on a bill with Dua Lipa at FLY 92.3’s Not So Silent Night at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY.
Next Gen – August, 2018
Financed by Chinese companies Alibaba and Wanda and shown at the Cannes Film Festival before being licensed by Netflix for US$30M, animated feature Next Gen included two songs by Grace, ‘Clay; and ‘Clearly’. A futuristic, coming-of-age, girl-and-her-robot tale, the songs were both used to emphasize plot points with relevant lyrics – ‘Clay’ after a scene portraying schoolyard bullying, and ‘Clearly’ as a resolution theme after the plot conflict is resolved while leading into the end credits. While the movie was released via streaming service throughout most of the world, it is not yet available in China and a large-scale theatrical release is still pending.
Fun Fact: For the end credits, both ‘Clay’ and ‘Clearly’ were re-recorded in Chinese with vocals by singer Haiyin Zheng.
X Factor Romania, Season 8 – September, 2018
16-year old Bianca Stoica auditioned for the 8th season of X-Factor Romania with a cover of ‘Clay’. Additionally, the background music during the judge’s comments was Grace’s version of “Clearly”. Bianca passed the audition with positive votes from all of the judges but failed to make the top 40 acts for the bootcamp rounds of the competition.
Fun Fact: For her semi-finals appearance on reality competition KIDSing Romania 2014, 12-year-old Bianca covered Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’.
While the list is not comprehensive, it highlights Grace’s ability to reach audiences with her words and music in formats unrelated to concert venues and late-night appearances. As a working musician with a history of both bankability to advertisers and emotional impact for music supervisors, Grace has one more set of tools on her belt for use on her musical career path.
This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUxwUey_Hn8&lc=UgyyjGfRyKoq6y7ZGJJ4AaABAg