Sunday, September 30, 2007


There was a lot happening in the world of pop music back in the late 1990s. In late 1998 seventeen-year-old Britney Spears debuted her first single "...Baby One More Time." The same year another little up and coming was beginning to hit the scene, Britney's former fellow Mickey Mouse Club cast member Christina Aguilera. In 1999 the then eighteen-year-old Aguilera released her first album and her song "Genie in a Bottle" hit the charts. A third blonde teenager, nineteen-year-old Jessica Simpson, released her first single "I Wanna Love You Forever" the same year. But there was another "pop princess" to hit the music scene in 1999, and many considered her to be the least interesting of the bunch. At only fifteen, Mandy Moore was the youngest of the bunch when her debut album released in late 1999. Although her song "Candy" was a widely-listened to success, her music was described as "medicore", "typical" and performed with "suffocating professionalism." Here is her music video for her hit song "Candy", which should be viewed in order to fully appreciate the transformation that you are about to see ...

Mandy followed up her debut album
So Real with a reworked version of it, I Wanna Be With You. In 2001 she released a third album, the self-titled Mandy Moore. A fourth album, Coverage, which featured covers of 1970s and 1980s songs, was released in 2003. None of the later songs obtained much success and her albums received mixed reviews. Mandy was more or less considered the "B version" of Britney and Christina. Due to low album sales she was dropped by Sony's Epic Records. But while Britney was heading down a path of self-destruction and Jessica was ruining her image on MTV's Newlyweds, Mandy was maturing and slowly but surely creating a new image for herself that would set her apart.

Perhaps it first began with her acting career. Many musicians that try the leap to acting fail miserably and also receive lots of eye rolls from skeptical listeners. Britney's foray into acting, the 2002 film Crossroads, was less than successful. Jessica Simpson has received consistently poor reviews for her acting skills and her most recent film has been rumored to be going direct to video. When Mandy debuted her acting skills with a small role in 2001's The Princess Diaries, followed up by a lead role in the 2002 film A Walk to Remember, audiences were probably skeptical as well. But over the years Mandy has created a solid acting career for herself. While her films have not always been successful, her acting skills have consistently been praised. Roger Ebert has called her "quietly convincing" with an "unaffected natural charm" and an "undeniable screen presence [that] inspires instant affection." Perhaps one of her best performances to date was in the 2004 positively-reviewed religious satire Saved! in which she played a zealous evangelical Christian, Hilary Faye.

View a humorous clip of Mandy from

Moore has appeared in several other films over the years, including
American Dreamz, Because I Said So and most recently License to Wed. She has also made guest appearances in the television shows Scrubs and Entourage.

View a trailer for her upcoming indie film

In the summer of 2007 Mandy returned to her first love, music, with the release of he
r fifth album Wild Hope. The 23-year-old has expressed disappointment and embarrassment over some of her early works, saying that her first albums were "just awful" and that if she could she would give a refund to everyone that bought her first two albums. In a photoshoot for Jane magazine, stars from the Sundance Film Festival were asked "What's your crime?" Moore posed for the shoot, proclaiming herself as the singer of "Candy." Needless to say, when the time came to make this new album, she was going for something different. Unlike her previous albums, this one was the product of two years' hard work. Mandy joined up with a new record company because rather than following the mainstream she wanted to have "complete control and freedom" over her work. And complete control and freedom meant lending her own songwriting talents and collaborating with artists such as Chantal Kreviazuk, Rachael Yamagata and Lori McKenna. The result? A sound that is more (in Mandy's words) "organic" and "folky", an album that has been receiving positive reviews and a career that is beginning to show more promise than those of her former "A-list" counterparts. The 23-year-old hopes that her music will appeal to folks her age or older.

The reviewer eloquently states, "
Wild Hope, co-written with the cred-conferring team of Rachael Yamagata, Lori McKenna, and the Weepies, should earn her a spot on adult-alternative radio alongside format regulars Dar Williams, Sarah McLachlan, and Jonatha Brooke … Talent will be Moore's ticket to the transformation she's going for--no wild hoping necessary." The Portland Mercury humorously describes her transformation from average pop-princess to sophisticated, promising singer/songwriter: "Although Mandy never quite seemed to amass the out-of-control success of some contemporaries, it's impossible to deny that she has matured like vintage vino while some (ahem, Britney, Lindsay) have gone as rancid as buckets of Three Buck Chuck." The general consensus seems to be that, although Wild Hope is not an instant-success or full of memorable hits, it shows that Mandy Moore has amazing potential to be what IGN refers to as a "bona fide singer/songwriter." Who would have guessed?

Now touring the US for the first time in 8 years, Mandy has been playing in many small venues, sharing her new sound with the world. Despite her distaste for her older music, she frequently plays a remixed version of the song "Candy", perhaps to show her audience how much she has in fact changed. Watch the following video to see Mandy's transformation.

But it is not just Mandy's talent that is making people talk about her and that is causing many people to find themselves surprised to declare themselves fans (myself included). Mandy is a young woman that promotes a type of quiet and sophisticated grace in a culture that is often times filled with over the top eccentrics. Mandy declares, "When people in the late 1990s started looking at these crazy poptarts and wondering which one would kind of fade and be crawling back to where she came from, I don't think people were looking at Britney. But I think I've made good choices and been very, very lucky." Some of these good choices include avoiding the party scene and keeping herself out of the public eye. She admits that she doesn't really enjoy partying, has no skeletons in her closet and feels "dreadful" when she stays up late. As she states, "Maybe for some people drink and drugs work for them, but I’m not a tortured artist. I wouldn’t turn to some sort of substance to make me feel better, I’d turn to writing." She also explains that it is "a choice to put yourself out there in such a public way ... I really don't thrive on that kind of attention ... I'm glad that people mostly leave me alone."

Here is an interview of Mandy discussing her life choices as well as her career on CBS News in June 2007:

It is refreshing to have someone like Mandy Moore out there to prove that young teen pop stars are not all doomed to follow the path of Britney or Lindsay. It is unfortunate that all promising young talent is met with skepticism and words such as "just give her a couple of years" or "how long before she's following Britney's footsteps?" Mandy should serve as an example that nothing is a given. I for one am personally looking forward to both seeing and hearing more of Mandy in the future. If this most recent album is any indication of things to come, Mandy Moore is setting herself up to become a very talented musician with a career of true substance. And
that is truly a surprise.

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