Before the squad, the sponsorship deals, and the chart-topping, record-breaking albums, Taylor Swift was once a 12-year-old with a dream. Back then, the modern incarnation of televised talent shows was still in its nascent stage, and Swift was far too young to challenge Kelly Clarkson for American Idol supremacy. She got a record deal the old-fashioned way, which has made watching her rise to the top of the pop world all the more thrilling.
Grace VanderWaal is another 12-year-old who can write her own songs and sing them with aplomb. She appeared on Tuesday’s episode of America’s Got Talent, and wowed the judges with her performance, prompting Simon to call her “the next Taylor Swift.” There were plenty of tears shed, a standing ovation, and there above all else, a star was born. Or it least that’s what it felt like.
Video of VanderWaal’s towering performance has already gone viral, and Howie Mandel was so impressed that he didn’t hesitate to send her through to the show’s live performance round. (He also called her a “living, beautiful, walking miracle,” but these shows are prone to hyperbole so we’ll let that one slide.)
The problem now is that unlike Swift, whose career was allowed to blossom organically, VanderWaal has been thrust into the spotlight after her first public performance (her friends don’t even know that she sings!) These talent competitions rarely produce bona fide superstars with shelf lives that last beyond their respective shows. Hopefully, VanderWaal breaks that mold because based on the video above, she’s the real deal.