Just The Beginning is Grace VanderWaal's debut studio album which was released on November 3, 2017 by Columbia Records and Syco Music.
The album debuted at #22 on the Billboard 200; it is her first full-length project, following her 2016 debut EP "Perfectly Imperfect."
- Moonlight 2:52
- Sick Of Being Told 3:51
- Burned 3:12
- Just A Crush 3:14
- So Much More Than This 2:54
- Escape My Mind 3:16
- Talk Good 3:01
- Florets 3:46
- Insane Sometimes 3:30
- A Better Life 4:04
- City Song 3:21
- Darkness Keeps Chasing Me 4:42
- Lungs 4:12
- Hope For Change 3:35
By early 2017, VanderWaal began working on the album, telling Billboard that it will be "more produced ... really the same sound ... [but] less acoustic" than her debut EP, "Perfectly Imperfect."
She has said that her process changed for the album from her previous efforts, because she was writing songs "on demand" with a collaborator, saying: "I've never done this before; it's kind of weird to go into a room with usually a 30-year-old man and just be like 'Oh, let me open up about my life to you and write a super personal song!'"
VanderWaal has writing credits for every song on the album. The producers on the album include Ido Zmishlany, Tim Sommers, Sean Douglas, Greg Wells, Gregg Wattenberg, Derek Fuhrmann, Mike Adubato and Michel Heyaca.
The recording and mixing of the album were performed at VsTheWorld Studios, Brooklyn, New York (tracks 1, 7, 8, 12 and 14), VanderWaal's home (track 1), Hourglass Studio, New York, New York (track 2), Westlake Studios, Los Angeles, California (track 3), Rocket Carousel Studio, Los Angeles, California (tracks 4, 10 and 13), Arcade Studios, New York, NY (tracks 5, 6, 9 and 11) and Platinum Sound Recording Studios, New York, New York (tracks 7, 8, 12 and 14).
In the United States, "Just The Beginning" debuted at #22 on the Billboard 200 with 21,000 album-equivalent units, which included 17,000 traditional album sales.
Before the album was released, reviewers commented on the individual song releases.
Gil Kaufman of Billboard magazine wrote that "Moonlight" "displays a fun tropical beat making it the perfect summer song" and that it "digs a little deeper" and "displays maturity".
Raisa Bruner of Time commented that the song "maintains [VanderWaal's] acoustic flair while layering in a lightly tropical touch".
Jon Caramanica of The New York Times opined the album "sounds like steroidal bluegrass-inflected space-pop", and VanderWaal's vocal "sounds emotionally exhausted, like a singer twice her age, or more."
Lisa Nguyen of Paste wrote of the track "Sick of Being Told": "The track is a catchy tune with poppy beats that perfectly capture [VanderWaal's] youthful spirit."
Ali Booth, in Tiger Beat, stated: "We haven’t been able to get ... 'So Much More Than This' out of our heads since she released it last month!"
A critic for Dallas Observer wrote that the same track "has a simple beat, but it explodes with sound when the chorus hits."
The headline of People magazine's review of "Escape My Mind" said that the song "will make you think about it all the time", and reviewer Nicole Sands called it a "catchy upbeat song".
Nicholas Hautman of Us Weekly wrote that the album "transcends the comparisons [to Swift] that have followed [VanderWaal] since AGT. ... Throughout the refreshing LP, VanderWaal channels the folky twang of Swift's earlier projects, but intertwines the sounds of fellow musicians Florence Welch, Regina Spektor and even Miley Cyrus".
Selina Fragassi of the Chicago Sun-Times commented that VanderWaal's "raspy-sweet-peculiar vocals recall Elle King, Regina Spektor and Katy Perry ... [and] proves herself a modern-day Mozart".
The Buffalo News, reviewer opined: "The album tackles a wide range of scenarios and emotions, well beyond her 13 years, in 12 magnificently crafted tracks. VanderWaal entrances listeners with the pop masterpieces of 'Florets' and 'City Song', while conveying raw, powerful emotion in 'A Better Life' and 'Darkness Keeps Chasing Me'. It is this vast diversity in her songwriting that makes her stand out as a truly unique and exquisite artist."
USA Today's review of the album noted: "Burned" recalls Swift's high-drama orchestrations. "Insane Sometimes" is a dead ringer for a Halsey track, down to its troubled subject matter. VanderWaal's big-throated performance on "A Better Life" channels Florence Welch and Miley Cyrus. And the vaguely tropical-house production of "Florets" is seemingly crafted for pop radio. ... [H]er vocals align ... closely to Sia's in her full-voiced belting and nonchalant pronunciations, particularly on her stomping performance on the feisty "So Much More Than This". ... VanderWaal sounds like a 13-year-old in her songs, in the best possible way. In a voice that sounds refreshingly green, she launches herself at huge choruses with a total lack of restraint. ... Beyond the album's sleek pop production, there's still plenty of VanderWaal’s trademark ukulele strums to please her original fans, heard on the album's single "Moonlight" as well as highlights "Just a Crush" and "Escape My Mind". But it's "A Better Life", the song that so masterfully channels several of pop's biggest voices, that best combines VanderWaal's two modes, opening with her modest finger-picking before she unleashes one of the album's most exquisitely-sung melodies."