Fifteen-year-old Mandy Moore's debut album sounded like it was inspired almost entirely by listening to recent hit albums by 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears. Tracks like "So Real" and "Let Me Be the One" clearly echoed "Backstreet's Back," and Moore's occasional growls were straight out of "...Baby One More Time." But the singer seemed to have aimed at a slightly younger demographic: Her initial single, "Candy," pointedly described love in terms of sugar treats, as if she weren't sure whether she wanted to be at lovers' lane or a snack bar. Naturally, all of the songs adhered to the second-person form of address, in which the singer was continually exhorting "you" and "boy" to do something of a romantic nature ("Walk Me Home," "Lock Me in Your Heart," "Quit Breaking My Heart," "Let Me Be the One"). But things always remained chaste, whether she was declaring, "My innocence won't be denied" in "So Real" or suggesting the "uncharted territory we'll discover" before quickly adding, "You'll always be my dream lover," in "Lock Me in Your Heart." Meanwhile, of course, the downbeats, as high in the mix as those of any disco track, slavishly propelled the songs to mid-tempo rhythms. Moore can carry a tune, but with no particular distinction, and since the songs were generic expressions of the type, the real questions seemed to be, could she dance, would her videos be good, and how would she be marketed? As So Real was being released, "Candy" was moving up the charts purely on sales points, since radio had become resistant to adding more teen queens, while MTV had yet to bite. All of that had more to do with whether Mandy Moore would succeed than did the music, which was mediocre, but typical.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann