Are you tired of — and maybe a little worried about — the teen idols your kids are following? Britney and Christina might not be everyone’s ideal role models, but Mandy Moore just might be. Millions of teenagers love her music, and many grown up, hard-to-please critics are praising her acting. These two generations of fans could be the perfect audience for her latest project.
Young pop stars are typically pushing the envelope, staying famous by staying in the spotlight, with lots of nightlife, sexy stunts, and eyebrow raising videos. Is this what it takes to make it today? Maybe not. Pop star Mandy Moore isn’t banking her career on shock value. She’s spending her time making movies, and most recently music, grown up music.
Mandy Moore: “It is music that I really came to discover and love love love.”
At 19, Mandy’s new CD, called “Coverage,” is full of the 70s music of Carole King and Cat Stevens, and a song by John Hiatt that was first released when she was just three years old.
Moore: “It was just this exciting selfish thing for me I guess. but it’s nerve-wracking. I mean, it’s Elton John, it’s Joni Mitchell, it’s Cat Stevens. It’s, I mean, there’s no way. It’s the ultimate.”
Here’s the story: Mandy didn’t grow up dreaming of being a pop star. She didn’t even listen to the radio. Mandy Moore, a self-described musical theater geek, dreamed of being on Broadway, when she just happened to be in the right place at the right time. On her very first crack at recording a demo tape to see how she sounded, the FedEx deliveryman for the studio happened to walk in and liked what he heard.
Moore: “Before I was even a quarter of the way finished with it, and this guy who worked for FedEx but also had a friend at Epic Records took my demo unbeknownst to me, he told my parents.”
The FedEx deliveryman gave the tape to his friend at Epic Records and he liked it, too. Suddenly, Mandy was off to New York and a big recording contract at just 14. Soon she released her first album, titled “So Real,” and with the hit single “Candy” it went platinum. Not bad, but today Mandy cringes when she hears it. She says it was the packaged creation of the recording industry.
Ann Curry: “So your album, ‘So Real,’ wasn’t so real was it?”
Moore: “Recording the first album, ‘So Real,’ I basically had no creative input whatsoever. Which at the time didn’t bother me at all. I was so excited to be in a recording studio with my own songs, Original songs written just for me.”
Curry: “It wasn’t true to you?”
Moore: “It wasn’t true to me.”
Curry: “So when you hear the song, ‘Candy, your skin crawls?’
Moore: “Crawls.. well...”
Curry: “It went platinum, this album. You’re kidding?”
Moore: “It just reminds me of a time where I was struggling to find who I was as a musician and as an artist. And I still am. But just makes me ultra ‘essh,’ like skeved out for some reason.”
But that’s how the pop world can be — lots of handlers directing your every career move. Now taking control herself, she is going against the tide that is driving her pop idol peers, many of whom are known as much for their bodies almost as much as their voices.
Moore:“To be honest it’s easy to take that route of dressing up or dressing — putting on very little. But it’s always been something that I’m not necessarily against. It’s just not me. So why do it.”
But pop is big business and sex sells. While Mandy has had her share of magazine covers, Rolling Stone recently put Britney on it’s cover — just about all of her.
Moore: “She feels free.”
Curry: “She feels free.”
Moore: “She feels very free. Mandy does not feel so free. Not free. Not free like that. I just don’t have the confidence.
Curry: “Some people might say that isn’t freedom it’s exploitative.”
Moore: “I don’t know. You don’t know what someone’s intentions are. I just look at that and that’s what came to mind. Like wow, Britney Spears feels very free. Good for her.”
Mandy has stepped back from the typical pop life in other ways, too. Choosing to keep her private life private, she had been dating tennis superstar Andy Roddick for eight months before the paparazzi lens focused in on them.
Moore: “I don’t want to hide something that I’m really happy about. But it comes to the point now, where people are like, so what are your pet names for each other? What’s the most romantic thing you have done for one another? And I stop and think, well should I be asking you the same questions? That is really not anyone’s business.”
But Mandy is more than happy to talk about her new music. No longer produced by slick pop professionals, her new CD of adult rock was her idea, and is still her baby.
Moore: “It’s the first single and on the radio. It’s kind of weird because this was our own little pet project and nobody knew much about it, so hearing people talk about or hearing it on the radio is odd.”
Like some other music stars, Mandy has tried her hand at acting. Unlike some others, her performances have been well received by critics and audiences.
Curry: “Unlike Britney and Mariah you have successfully crossed over into film.”
Moore: “I guess.”
Her first film, “A Walk to Remember,” was a surprise box office hit, making Hollywood take notice. Next, she starred in “The Princess Diaries” and “How to Deal.”
Curry: “Do you think of yourself as more of a singer or an actress?”
Moore: “It’s hard because in the past I’ve always said well, I’m more passionate about singing. I love singing but I love acting, too. I love being able to do the combination of both.”
Hollywood wants her to keep doing both, too. She has several new movies in production. Next, she’ll play the president’s daughter in “Chasing Liberty,” a big budget romantic comedy, and later this spring she’s a do-gooder-gone bad in “Saved,” a black comedy produced by Michael Stipe, leader of the rock band “R.E.M.”
Despite intense pop culture pressure, Mandy Moore won’t be another teen idol, because she’s trying hard just to be herself.
Curry: “You know, I sometimes dream of being Walter Cronkite, I mean what do you dream, who do you emulate, who do you want to be when you grow up?”
Moore: “People that I looked up to growing up, the number one person is Bette Midler. I loved Bette Midler. She was on Broadway, she was in films, had a recording career, had a TV career. She was a wife, she was a mother, she did it all. She was a household name without compromising who she was.”
Curry: “And that’s who you want to be? The girl who can do it her own way?”
Moore: “My own way.”
Curry: “That can be the hard way.”
Moore: “Yeah, but its easier for me this way.”