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I like to think of Grace in the fall of 2019, on the verge of turning 16, as “Grace on the cusp”.
Grace’s music, her new music, is evolving at a breakneck pace. It may leave many of her current fans behind, but if it gets heard by people outside of her existing fan-base (much, if not all of her promotion for the last two years has been of the “preaching to the dwindling choir” variety) then we will see her career explode as new fans appreciative of her more sophisticated and mature sound discover her.
As Autumn Rowe, the AGT vocal coach who has songwriting credits on “Clay”, “Light the Sky” and “Gossip Girl” said of Grace; “she’s the whole package” and is supposedly what all of the record labels are looking for in today’s music market; genuine/natural (non-manufactured) personalities, real talent, physically appealing, and charismatic. So what’s stopping Grace from taking over the world? Why hasn’t it happened already?
The VanderVault Staff published an excellent article a few weeks ago regarding the “tipping points” of viral events, whether it’s the actual spread of a viral infection, a political upheaval, a hit song, the breakthrough of a recording artist or movie star, or frankly anything else that involves the spread of information (even viral DNA is information after all).
What Grace needs, of course, and what will be no surprise to readers of our articles over the last couple of years, is proper “mainstream” promotion from her label, but above that she could also use an independent trigger event, or a series of them, to propel her into the “fame bubble” as Grace defined it over a year and a half ago.
Lorde and Billie Eilish both had what the article above refers to as a “Salesman” intervene, independent of label PR efforts, and inject their journey to fame with an endorsement that lent not only a promotional boost and media recognition, but instant “street cred”. Obtaining such an endorsement is a very tricky thing as it must be genuine, not sought after, and it must occur spontaneously. What am I talking about?
One of the many reasons why both Lorde (then 15) and Billie Eilish (17), went viral was due to unsolicited endorsements from elder statesmen of the music industry. It should be noted that such things must come from the respective genres/vibes of the teens in question, blessing them with titles that essentially “pass the torch” to the next generation.
In Lorde’s case David Bowie, near the end of his life, proclaimed, spontaneously, that Lorde represented “the future of music”.
Dave Grohl, lead singer and songwriter of The Foo Fighters, and also notably the drummer of Nirvana, said that “When I look at someone like Billie Eilish, rock and roll is not close to dead!” and further that “The same thing is happening with her that happened with Nirvana in 1991.” Dave Grohl is a rock icon himself, but his endorsement carried so much weight because he linked it to Nirvana and by extension his late friend and band leader Kurt Cobain.
It was only once the endorsements were publicized that the media, and critics, started paying attention and began to take both artists seriously instead of treating them like “yet another teen pop artist”.
It should also be noted that the “tipping point” for Billie’s endorsement from Grohl was actually introduced by another “actor” identified by the “tipping point” theory…Grohl’s teen daughters who had become huge fans of Billie’s. His daughters, according to the theory, are the most difficult to trigger agents to find; the “Connectors” who cross social boundaries.
Who could Grace’s “Salesman”/musical institution be? Again, it’s not something that can be sought, for any contrivance of intervention from authority/establishment will be viewed as disingenuous and be rendered ineffective. Off the top of my head, such an endorsement would have to come from a well-respected icon of the singer/songwriter tradition, but one still socially relevant, or “cool”. David Bowie and Kurt Cobain are not only singer/songwriters, but rock royalty of the highest order, so coming across a similar artist to endorse Grace may not come easily.
It should be further noted that the endorser must be someone whose career, or possibly life (as was the case with both the late Bowie and Cobain) is nearing it’s end, or has ended already and is coming via proxy (such as was the case with Cobain via Grohl). Joni Mitchell is definitely such an icon, but she doesn’t often comment on contemporary music. Lana Del Rey is still very relevant and far too young to have the same kind of impact, the same thing goes for Adele, Lady Gaga and Florence Welch. Bob Dylan, like Mitchell, doesn’t really comment often on contemporary music, though his endorsement would be perfect, and Neil Young stopped hanging out with “cool kids” after Pearl Jam (who are now themselves, like me, becoming old men). Stevie Nicks would have been perfect, but she’s already used the weight of her legend to anoint Harry Styles to great effect such that he was the one to induct her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Notice in the video below how warmly welcomed Styles is by the audience filled with Nicks’ peers at the ceremony…
Who then might this icon be that could provide Grace with the media attention, and instant “street cred” though their endorsement? Paul McCartney is still very much alive kicking, and that might do it, but John Lennon is more in Grace’s wheelhouse. Now if Sir Paul were to say something to the effect of “Yeah, this Grace VanderWaal, that American girl…She’s got it. When I hear her songs I get the same feeling I used to when John and I first started getting really serious about our lyrics.” That would be an earthquake of an endorsement, but it likely won’t happen as he doesn’t really do that sort of thing.
Someone who could lend Grace instant “street cred”, but would have little impact on mainstream media, would be an endorsement from Thom Yorke, the lead singer and primary songwriter of the legendary UK band Radiohead (also inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame). Grace’s “Poseur” and “Lungs” have very similar vibes to his songs and I can see him digging her stuff, but again, he doesn’t often comment on other artists.
Carole King’s endorsement would carry weight within heady music circles, but very unfairly I don’t believe she’s considered “cool” enough, or is commonly known, by this generation. Billy Joel falls into the same category.
Which music legend do you think might be able to help Grace out by lending her their seal of approval?