In the beginning, there was Britney Spears, dressed as a Catholic school girl with a bare midriff, short skirt and pouty lips, selling sex and CDs to the tune of “Baby One More Time”. It was easy to predict Britney Spears would become a major force in pop from the moment the school bell rang in her first video and the iconic notes of “One More Time” began to play.
In the music industry, imitation is the sincerest form of profit, so a legion of young girls began flooding radio stations and MTV countdowns.
Although most would argue that Christina Aguilera is far more talented vocally than Britney Spears, it hasn’t helped her much. Even with twice as many number one hits and four Grammy Awards to Britney’s one, Christina seems forever destined to be overshadowed by her former Mickey Mouse Club co-star.
Jessica Simpson had a beautiful voice, but her affected vocal style and lazy annunciation hurt her chances of ever being a major star, so she found success by making ignorance look charming on reality television.
And then there was Mandy.
Mandy Moore has become a fairly successful actress, with roles in movies like A Walk to Remember, Saved!, and License to Wed as well as recurring roles on television series including Scrubs and Entourage. She has recieved a certain amount of critical respect with albums like Wild Hope and Amanda Leigh.
But once upon a time, she was a pop princess, releasing songs like “Candy”, an incredibly formulaic and forced single that only proved she wasn’t a threat to Britney Spears. It’s no wonder Mandy has said her first album, So Real, sucked. “Candy” almost cracked the Top 40, peaking at 41, but the other two releases – the barely listenable “Walk Me Home” and “So Real” – never made a dent on the Billboard Hot 100.
A hastily released follow-up album, I Wanna Be With You, contained remixes from her first CD along with a few new tracks. The title song became her only real hit, reaching #24 on the Hot 100.
The song did far more than just make her a one-hit wonder, however. Although still overproduced and at times oversung (breathiness is never a good substitute for true emotion), “I Wanna Be With You” is a gentle ballad that showcases Mandy Moore’s gentle but expressive voice far better than her earlier work.
Although she’s never charted since achieving her one Top 40 hit, her recordings have continued to improve. From the Indian influences of “In My Pocket” to the earnest cover of “Have A Little Faith in Me” to the adventurous “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week”, Mandy is trusting her voice and exploring a career far removed from her days as a Britney wannabe.
Mandy Moore may have first found fame in the wake of Britney’s rise to superstardom, but she deserves more than being a footnote in history. She may be a one-hit wonder for now, but based on her recent work, it’s extremely likely she won’t hold that title for much longer.
// Notes from the Road
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