Young Hit and Miss

Mandy Moore

For now Moore can just coast. So Real recently reached the platinum mark, a fact that makes Moore's head spin.

"I hope it spins forever," she squeals. "I never want to get used to that feeling. It's so fresh and so new. Ohmigod -- I'm singing my own music!"

Her "own music" is actually that of the songwriting-production team Shaun Fisher and Tony Battaglia, responsible for nearly every track on So Real. Moore receives zero songwriting credit. Not that she'd want it -- it's one thing to hear a 16-year-old girl sing "Take me to a place where/The magic between us becomes real/Take me all the way/ Boy I want you to" ("Lock Me in Your Heart"), but to realize the words were written for her by fortysomething Svengalis adds a new pathological component. Considering the position she's found herself in, however, Moore counts herself extremely fortunate to have Fisher and Battaglia on her side.

Hands off Mandy's candy: 16-year-old Mandy Moore says modesty's a virtue
Hands off Mandy's candy: 16-year-old Mandy Moore says modesty's a virtue


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"I just turned 16, and I'm doing what I love to do," she says. "It's so sad when you think about all those people who are stuck in jobs right now where they just dread waking up and going to work every morning. I get to do what I love at such a young age. I can't even describe it; I can't even find the right adjectives. People's expectations are always going to be high, and you're always going to hope for the best, but you can never predict a million albums! It's mind-blowing!" But Moore puts the victory in perspective: "I can't believe there are people out there like Britney and the Backstreet Boys who have sold, like, 10 million and 15 million albums! That's incredible!"

Moore's image and age still seem to spar with each other. Sexy poses on her CD covers and a heavily dolled-up look (with Britneyesque tight tops and the like) when she opened concerts for the Backstreet Boys are at odds with her apparent modesty. And many of the double-entendres penned by Battaglia and Fisher are laughably transparent. An example: "I'm so addicted to the lovin' that you're feedin' me/Can't do without this feeling's got me weak at the knees/Body's in withdrawal every time you take it away/Can't you hear me callin', beggin'…" from the fluffy, forgettable "Candy."

So Real found a soft spot with indiscriminate fans of sugar-dipped prefab pop. To maximize the disc's sales figures, Epic is slowly pacing Moore's success. A scheduled deployment of a second single from So Real has been delayed, to milk all the mileage possible out of "Candy," which first charted in December, dipped slightly, but then sold steadily again. Now the label is releasing the four-track EP I Wanna Be With You this week, amended with a "Candy" remix and a foldout Mandy poster.

However, Moore insists she won't be content to keep making music in the bubble-gum vein forever and even hints that when she begins work on So Real's full-length follow-up, audiences should expect a slight shock at the results.

"I may go in a more unexpected direction, maybe more rock-pop," she offers. "If you keep doing the same thing over and over, people are going to lose interest. Madonna keeps doing something different, so that even the people who hate her will be some of the first people to go out and buy her new album, just to see what's she's doing."

That said, it takes some imagination to picture the disposable ditties from So Real having the same influential reach as Madonna's first songs. Then again, those numbers seemed like substandard piffle to many at the time.

"You need to grow up with your audience," Moore says confidently. "I don't know if I'd want to stay singing to people this age, because I'm going to grow up and I'm going to sing about what I can relate to in my life. What I'm going to sing about when I'm 25 may not be as easy to relate to a 13- or 15-year-old out there."

Contact Jeff Stratton at his e-mail address:

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