Mandy Moore


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Mandy Moore doesn't capture the headlines the way Britney, Christina, or, thanks to MTV's revelation of her status as the dumb blonde for the new millennium, Jessica Simpson do, but working under the radar is a good place for her to be. While greater attention was paid to her peers, Moore proved that she's a genuine, credible actress in A Walk to Remember and How to Deal, far outshining Britney's turn in Crossroads; she never succumbed to the Stripped antics of Xtina; and every career decision she'd made so far, choosing classy albeit glossy mainstream projects, displays that she has more smarts than Simpson. Where all the aforementioned divas were more or less hidebound to fashion and dance-pop, Moore decided to broaden her horizons and position herself for a long-term career with her third album, Coverage. With this record, she leaves dance-pop behind and heads toward mature pop -- and in a far more effective fashion than Jessica Simpson's Andy Williams revamp In This Skin -- by positioning herself, with the assistance of producer/engineer John Fields, as a pop/rock singer by covering classic singer/songwriters such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, and Elton John, as well as cult pop icons like XTC's Andy Partridge, Mike Scott of the Waterboys, Joe Jackson, and Todd Rundgren. Though the selections Moore and Fields have made are predictable -- each songwriter is showcased by one of his or her best-known songs, with the arguable exception of "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" for Elton and Bernie Taupin -- that does make sense, since it piques curiosity: listeners will want to know how does Mandy Moore sing "Can We Still Be Friends," "I Feel the Earth Move," and "Senses Working Overtime." The answer: pretty good, actually. Moore still has the problem of being a more likeable vocalist than a knockout singer, but she makes up for her lack of pizzazz through her hard work and good taste. While it is true that it is disarming to hear some of these songs cleaned and polished for mainstream radio, at times the reworking can be quite effective, as on the surging "The Whole of the Moon" (the best of the alt-pop reworkings) and the passionate take on Joan Armatrading's "Drop the Pilot" (the best singer/songwriter reworking). And while there is some awkwardness here -- mainly deriving from Moore's plain-spoken, earnest delivery and Fields' slightly fussy, slick arrangements not quite suiting the idiosyncrasies of these songs -- it's refreshing to hear an aspiring pop singer work with a strong set of songs by distinctive writers instead of cookie-cutter professional tunesmiths who only have the charts in mind. Moore and Fields still have the charts in mind, but they're trying to do something of substance within the modern mature-pop framework, and while Coverage isn't always successful, it is always admirable and likeable, and certainly puts Moore on the right path for an interesting, successful career.

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