Tween dubbed the 'next Taylor Swift'

Winner of America's Got Talent Grace VanderWaal (above), 12, writes her own songs.
Winner of America's Got Talent Grace VanderWaal (above), 12, writes her own songs.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • The 12-year-old singer dubbed the "next Taylor Swift" got a big surprise from the Shake If Off singer herself.

Grace VanderWaal, who won the America's Got Talent finale last Wednesday, received a large bouquet of flowers from Swift, 26, following her win.

She shared a video of her reaction to the gift on Twitter last Friday, writing: "Words cannot explain how honoured I am for this."

The songwriter and ukulele player became a hot favourite when she first appeared on the NBC show in June, belting out her original song, I Don't Know My Name.

"You are the next Taylor Swift," difficult-to-impress judge Simon Cowell declared then. The girl from New York state writes her own songs and croons with a voice mature beyond her years.

In the final round, she performed Clay, a song about responding to bullies. "Your silly words, I won't live inside your world. 'Cause your punches and your names, all your jokes and stupid games, they don't work," she sang. "No, they don't hurt. Watch them just go right through me, because they mean nothing to me. Try to change my shape, but, baby, I'm not clay. Sorry, not today."

She began making up songs when she was three, learnt to play the piano at four and took up the saxophone at 10, according to NBC. A year ago, she bought a ukulele using her birthday money and taught herself to play it. It took her just a couple of weeks.

She then hit the open-mic scene in New York and New Jersey and a local musician began teaching her music theory in April.

"The most amazing thing about Grace is that you haven't heard anybody who sounds like her," judge Howie Mandel said, according to People. "You haven't heard any lyrics from somebody that is like her."

When asked whether there is any artist whose career she wanted to emulate, she named Swift, who also learnt to play a string instrument as a preteen and wrote her own songs at a young age.

Last Wednesday, VanderWaal became the first female and child act to win the show since its first season, when Bianca Ryan, then 11, won. She won US$1 million (S$1.4 million) and will headline Las Vegas shows next month.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2016, with the headline 'Tween dubbed the 'next Taylor Swift''. Print Edition | Subscribe