Grace Mitchell joins the legion of pop stars at the age of eighteen



Mikaela Krim


In 1972, there was the Jackson 5. In 1987, there was Tiffany. In 2010, there was Justin Bieber. 

And now, Grace Mitchell joins the legions of pop stars (Taylor Swift, Lorde and Earl Sweatshirt among them) to achieve success before the ripe old age of 20. 

The 18-year old from Portland, Oregon put out her first EP, “Design,” in 2014, and was met with widespread critical acclaim. 

The record’s four tracks were an atmospheric showcase for her husky tone and mature lyrical content. 

This August Mitchell brought us “Raceday,” her second EP, and its catchy hooks and clever beats make her breakthrough into the mainstream seem imminent. 

More emotional than “Design,” with happier highs and moodier lows, not a single track off the record falls flat.  

Mitchell experiments within the steadily diversifying pop genre, producing something like a techno-pop, R&B, pop, hip-hop electronica mash up. 

Her sound is languid, with a boozy feel and dark undertones reminiscent of Lorde. 

And in fact, Mitchell’s voice is similar to Lorde’s: mellow and crooning with a perpetual edge of irony, though far glossier and more mature. 

More importantly, Mitchell’s range is blessedly singable—unlike listening to Ariana Grande or Mariah Carey. 

You can hum along in the car without being afraid you’ll tear something in your larynx. 

The best thing about “Raceday,” however, and the facet that distinguishes it most from its predecessor is the definitive forward motion in every track; as a listener you feel pulled along, whether it’s at 80 beats per minute or 160. 

In a word, the whole EP is sexy; it provides a multi-dimensionality that is absent from Mitchell’s previous work. 

“Raceday’s” opener and title track is forceful, with a heavy bass drum and strong piano chords. It’s driven by a continuous, chime-like scale that dances up to a middle C and gives the song a lilting quality, making you feel as though you’re spinning dizzily around some sinister ballroom. 

Mitchell forbids the sound from becoming boring or repetitive—instead, she includes a myriad of artistic touches to lend the song color, from the crackly record overlay to the sporadic harp glisses that add a playful touch almost imperceptible to the unfocused ear. 

That mid-range C chimes off gently in the background throughout the entire track, like someone’s methodically hitting a cowbell, or has left their car door open with the keys in the ignition.The lyrics of “Raceday” follow a running motif, with references to “PRs,” “plaques,” “lacing up,” “pace” and the “gun going off.” 

The melody’s careful chiastic structure leaves you feeling whole upon its completion. 

It’s a four-course meal and a full-length movie, rolled into three minutes of song.

“Jitter” has the makings of a single and has already been working its way onto radio stations. Exemplifying the album’s poppier side, this club scene-inspired composition is more austere—most of it involves Mitchell’s sultry rapping. At points, she sounds vaguely like Fergie. 

The bridge’s melody is strong enough to keep the ear occupied, even if the chorus falls a little flat. 

Despite its limitations, however, the upbeat tempo coupled with the trap-influenced beat helps make “Jitter” one of the most fun tracks not only of this EP, but of all pop albums in 2015 thus far.  Mitchell goes intense with “Bae,” featuring a pulsing baseline that calls to mind a fast midnight drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Yet on many accounts it is the simplest and most unadorned of the EP’s tracks, serving primarily as a platform for French rapper S. Pri Noir. And yes, S. Pri raps every drug dealing-, law evading-, bank robbery-related lyric in French (with the exception of the line “Louis, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana”).

If there’s a weak point in the album, it’s “Breaking Hearts,” which, despite its fun hook and funky high-hat sound that hums like a sterile version of trap, just fails to stand out. 

“NoLo,” however, takes the cake as Mitchell’s best work to date.  A deceptively positive melody distracts from the bitter disenchantment with which Mitchell sings about the inherent futility of romance. 

“Think I gotta let you know that we were over the day that we started” she sings, along with a central line of “You gotta know low if you wanna get high.” 

The sunshiney, Surf Music guitar line whisks listeners along to the trap house chorus, and once again, Mitchell’s melodic decisions are uniquely creative. 

Her verses play with a string of 16th notes that blend into a waltz-like rhythm of triplets, while maintaining a quietly unrelenting 4/4 signature that keeps you bouncing involuntarily throughout. It’s impossible not to be taken in by this song, or to avoid the days of humming that come as the result of a single listen.      

“Raceday” is a substantial pop release, juicy enough to keep fans satiated. A standout quality from the record as a whole is the exceptionally smooth verse-to-chorus transitions—in “Raceday,” soaring violins bring you to and from. “NoLo’s” sections are drastically different, and yet the movement between feels seamless. 

Even “Jitter,” with its halting, staccato beat, seems to glide forward on some invisible propulsion. 

Indeed, this is an album of movement, whether that involves a dizzying downwards spiral or a bellicose explosion skyward. 

If you have but 18 minutes and 28 seconds this semester, spend it listening to Grace Mitchell. 

And even if you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before she bursts into the spotlight. Just remember that you heard it here first.