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Syco Records (Simon Cowel’s label) is a powerhouse in the music industry and responsible for dozens of billions of streams of contemporary artists; Grace finds herself also under their umbrella. Will she benefit from their experience, and in the end how much of it will be the result of their efforts, and how much will be due to her own?

Let’s get started; there are more similarities between Syco stablemates Grace, Camila Cabello and Harry Styles than you might think.

Grace and Camila both got their starts on television talent shows produced and hosted by Simon Cowel and were then signed to his label Syco. Camila auditioned as a solo act for the short-lived U.S. version of X Factor, but was rejected as such, though Simon saw potential in the young (15-year-old), born in Havana, Cuba and raised between Havana, Mexico City and Miami.

Camila was soon paired with 4 other girls who had also auditioned as solo artists, and all similarly rejected, to form a “girl band” by Simon. The girls, all teenagers at the time, named themselves “5th Harmony” and though they ended the season in third place (the same finish as One Direction on the U.K. version of X-Factor), they went onto worldwide success as a group. Each artist, since the band’s breakup two years ago have released, or will soon, their own solo records.

Like Camila, Harry auditioned for the X-Factor (though the UK version) at a young age (16), but two years earlier in 2010. After being eliminated, Harry was brought back as part of a “boy band” that Simon had hand selected, one comprised of other similarly aged singers. Like the members of 5th Harmony, each have gone on to successful solo careers following the breakup of One Direction.

Camila dropped her sophomore solo album “Romance” on December 6th where it debuted at #3 on the charts behind both the legendary classic rock band “The Who” with their all new original material LP titled “Who”, and rapper Roddy Ricch who topped the charts with his first album.

Camila did well with this album, but it wasn’t a spectacular showing, especially considering her self titled freshman album debuted at #1 in 2018. Separately from that first album, she scored a monster hit single with “Havana” (written by her, Sia, and super-producer Benny Blanco) and was recognized as Spotify’s most-streamed song ever by a female solo artist with over 2.6 billion listens and counting. She had several other singles chart in the top 20 as well since breaking out in her own solo career, including her first duet with Shawn Mendes on “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, produced and co-written by Grace’s favourite producer Ido Zmishlany.

She and Shawn had another monster hit duet with their song “Senorita”, announcing their relationship as a couple, with over 1 billion streams on Spotify and counting, recognized by many pundits as “The Song of The Summer” for 2019, though “Old Town Road” by Lil Naz X and “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish also have solid contention for owning the same title.

Despite all of that monstrous recent success, and an absolutely massive marketing campaign that saw Camila appear, and perform, on every talk show imaginable around the world, and having a very high-profile romance with the most successful solo male pop artist, not named Ed Sheeran, for the last several years, and even landing the cover of Time Magazine, she could only pull off a #3 debut with 80,000 album units sold (including streaming equivalents).

Nothing went “wrong” with the promotion of “Romance”, and while the numbers that album generated are certainly decent, they are not spectacular. So, why such a tepid performance on the charts? It could very well be the phenomenon of “over-exposure” rearing its ugly head. Because of her high-profile romance with Shawn Mendes, and their inescapable hit single “Senorita”, it’s been difficult to “get away” from Camila.

The album opened to reasonably strong reviews, and Camila claimed much more creative control over this very eclectic sounding album, but it just didn’t set the world on fire as many thought it would/should.

So, what does all of this have to do with Grace? Again, both Camila and Grace have similar career roots, and both are signed to Syco Records and distributed under the Sony Music umbrella (Grace via Columbia Records, and Camila through Epic Records).

Grace certainly isn’t suffering from over-exposure, but as I described in my recent article “Letters Vol. 1 Didn’t Chart & Why That’s Okay”…

https://vandervault.org/2019/12/03/lett … hats-okay/
…Grace isn’t on the same career track as Camila (who used her time as the most visible member of 5th Harmony as a launching pad), and is (rightly) being treated as a “new artist”.

Syco has done everything right with Camila’s solo career, to spectacular success, but savvy marketing moves can only yield so much. At some point it comes down to the music and how well it connects with listeners. I’ve listened to Camila’s album and though I think it’s a solid effort I have no desire to listen to any of the songs again, and that’s a problem. I’m a very open-minded listener and I find Camila very talented, charming, intelligent and quirky in a manner not dissimilar from Grace, but her songs off of “Romance”, while oftentimes creatively ambitious, just didn’t land with me, and I’m left wondering if I’m representative of the general public’s reaction to the LP. My take-away thought of the album was that it was eclectic, but to the point of sounding “scattered”.

By contrast, Harry Styles’ (also a Syco Records artist) album “Fine Line” (dropped this last Friday) is, to my ears, a winner. It’s wildly eclectic, but despite all of the experimentation found on the record it is always easily identifiable as his own work; the presence of other writers and producers isn’t obviously heard. His LP sounds as though it all stemmed from his own imagination, whereas Camila’s seems more like the result of several completely independent writer’s workshops.

Grace’s music, as intimated by “Letters Vol. 1” is more similar to Harry’s LP in that while each track is vastly different from its neighbours, they are all very obviously the product of a single artist, not just a vocalist, but an artist.

Okay, finally approaching the point here (thanks for sticking with me)…Syco can’t do everything. They can finance and execute, with its partners under the Sony umbrella and contracted PR firms, brilliant marketing plans, but at some point the responsibility for true success rests on the shoulders of the artist, and for that artist to have a firm hand in the creative decisions and direction of their products, be they singles, EPs, LPs, music videos or tours.

It seems that Grace, at the age of 15, is already doing that, though she has strongly implied, through hints and explicit statements on social media*, that it has been a struggle for her, and sometimes an outright battle, to establish creative control. It will be really interesting to hear what “Letters Vol. 2” sounds like when it drops when Grace is 16, but if Volume 1 is any indication, it will be wholly Grace.

*
insta.pollo.gram
I miss when she just to play her own music and sign her own songs… and the ukulele was the best……. she’s commercial now magic is gone

gracevanderwaal
@insta.pollo.gram honestly back then to the time that you’re referencing I was being told much more what to do and I was sometimes not even involved AT ALL on creatives and sometimes never came up with what you saw. I don’t mean to ruin the magic of that time for you because of course it was such a good time but it seems to me that you liked the magic of others telling me what to do, others telling me to hold back, saying it’s “to much” “to weird” or “doesn’t make sense” “wait til your older” “you’ll loose your fans” I could go on. That magic you liked wasn’t mine :/

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LETTERS VOLUME 1 IS COMING

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