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When Devin experienced the voice and presence of singer Christina Grimmie, he was certain she would be a star. Only a deranged fan would rob us all of the opportunity to see her ascension.

Titanium, But Not Bulletproof: The Tragic Loss of Christina Grimmie

We got a text last weekend from my daughter’s boyfriend’s parents. With all of them away on a New Hampshire skiing weekend, his mother sent us video clips of the two of them musically fiddling around. The first clip featured a few rich, soulful lines of him on trumpet, an instrument he clearly knew his way around.

Then came my daughter, seated at their living room piano. The tune she played took me straight back to the days of practicing songs in her childhood bedroom.

This familiar, haunting melody I hadn’t heard in years.

It reminded me of a story. Of an amazing young lady who radiated a blazing bright light.

But it wasn’t my daughter that came to mind.


We watched a lot of Disney TV when my daughter was little.

One show we all loved was the sitcom The Wizards of Waverly Place and its sassy, multi-talented star, Selena Gomez. With Selena stickers and CD covers adorning my daughter’s books and bedroom walls, Gomez had become her first childhood idol.

Selena’s singing tour was stopping in nearby New Hampshire, and luck would somehow score us front-row tickets. On a perfect summer night, two third-grade girls (she and a friend) were giddy with anticipation while people made their way into the bleachers of the outdoor amphitheater.

Without even an announcement, a young lady in torn jeans and a white t-shirt walked onto the stage alone.

She took a seat behind a small keyboard and addressed the sparse early crowd as if she’d just strode casually into their living room. Playing and singing through a loud din of conversations, the atmosphere soon quieted as the growing audience became engaged. This kid was fielding requests, playing and singing just about anything anyone yelled out. The absurd level of talent on display belied a young lady who might not have been old enough to drive a car.

As the bright summer sky darkened and the bleachers filled, it was finally time for the headliner. But I’d stopped thinking about who was about to perform, still mesmerized by the little prodigy leaving the stage. Straining over the crowd noise, I focused hard to hear them announce her name.

It was 16-year old Christina Grimmie.

My daughter loved every minute of Selena’s concert, most memorably when I lifted her up onto my shoulders at the stage’s edge to touch Selena’s hand as she finished her encore. With my daughter still on cloud nine, I led us all out near the entrance and spotted a meet-and-greet table and asked someone if it was for Selena. They told me Selena wasn’t doing that. It was for the opening act.

And then out of nowhere, the wispy little singer appeared. Aside from a merch helper laying out her one handmade CD for sale, she was alone. I wondered if her parents were around. Her brown highlighted hairdo was very unique, distinctive in the way Jennifer Anniston’s hair on Friends was distinctive, voluminous on top, parted to one side, with shoulder-length strands surrounding her small face like a wreath.

She chatted it up with my kid like they were sisters, creating a familiar rapport, making it about my daughter, even encouraging her to keep pushing her skills on the piano.

Just a few minutes in her presence, and I was flat-out blown away.


We got home, devoured her CD, then started looking her up online. Turns out she was quite the YouTube star. She’d recorded a variety of pop songs, playing keyboard and singing in her New Jersey bedroom with the help of a sophisticated looking microphone and some recording equipment.

Her online trove of unique cover gems ran deep.

Eventually I came upon a clip of her playing a song I didn’t know, but after one listen, I became obsessed. I’d been a fan of the songwriter (Sia Furler) for years, but this was a more subdued version of a dance/club mix Sia had written for a DJ in Europe. The artful poetry, skillfully woven ironies and dramatic musical flourishes were typical calling cards of the songwriter.

“Titanium” would eventually become a global sensation, popping up on TV, movies and commercials, and would soon be covered by droves of singers. But in 2011, I’d only yet experienced it through the lens of this soulful, virtually unknown young lady.

I played “Titanium” for my daughter one Saturday morning, anxious for her reaction.

She studied it carefully, then disappeared to her room. By Sunday night, she had the chords down pretty good for an 8-year old with only a few piano lessons under her belt. I remember trying to record her playing it on my iPad, with all her starts and stops, trial and error. At some point, I recall her putting it aside, still too young to get it exactly right. We resigned ourselves to just enjoying Christina Grimmie’s superlative take.

Soon, one night after dinner we turned on the TV to watch a new season of The Voice. To our stunned surprise, Christina Grimmie would be that season’s very first contestant. Her cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” turned every chair. On the show, she quickly garnered a reputation for reinventing songs by popular stars into thoroughly original reinterpretations. Her remake of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” was so well received that the next day, Drake himself publicly raved about it. Her celebrity mentor (Maroon 5s Adam Levine) would often joke with the audience after Christina performed something, that he “had nothing to do with it.”

Grimmie would make it all the way to the final round of The Voice.

And as Levine continued to help her professionally, she released new music and toured as an opening act for other bands. In 2013, she was even invited to perform “Titanium” live on Dancing With The Stars. Christina sat in dark shadow behind a massive piano, with stage lights focused entirely on the dancers, her performance left many die-hard fans of the show more moved by the music than the dancing.

You shout it out, but I can’t hear a word you say

I’m talking loud, not saying much


I’m criticized, but all your bullets ricochet

Shout me down, but I get up


I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose, fire away, fire away

Ricochet, you take your aim, fire away, fire away


You shoot me down, but I won’t fall

I am Titanium

With her own star then firmly on the rise, Christina Grimmie would for the next couple of years continue to chase that one great big original hit of her own, one that would take her career to the next level.

But Grimmie was robbed of her opportunity to ascend.

IOn June 10th, 2016, after a performance at The Plaza Live in Orlando, a deranged male fan shot her at point blank range at the end of her meet and greet. She’d just hugged him and they’d began talking, like she did with every fan. She passed away en route to the hospital.

Early the next morning, it was my daughter who’d seen the news first. That day, neither of us could speak of it out loud.

Just two days later, in the same city of Orlando, another disturbed person entered Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub across town, and committed an act of unimaginable horror. Forty-nine people were massacred that night.


As the parade of human tragedy marches onward, it gets harder every day to keep it all straight.

We no sooner start grieving a loss when another senseless one occurs somewhere else. How shall we deal with the complicated emotional issues surrounding guns, fear, hate, mental illness, how to provide the most basic societal protections while preserving cherished societal freedoms?

If we knew, we’d be doing it already.

When someone precious is tragically lost (and, the unfortunate reality is that this will keep happening), we must remind ourselves that we‘re lucky to have ever known them at all, and to try and keep that loving spirit alive. And so it is for that reason that hearing this song again reminds me, maybe even compels me, to share it with others. Not hearing it for so long now allows me to finally appreciate it again, despite its bitter irony.

This clip’s visuals and some backing sounds were posthumously enhanced from the original, presumably by Christina’s family. If you’ve never experienced this kid, experience this… it’ll blow your hair straight back.

Devin Householder

Devin is passionate about writing, reading and remaining in emotionally harmful relationships with losing sports teams. He suffers quietly (except on Sundays) with his loving wife and daughter in Rhode Island.

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