I’m currently working (I promise!) on a Madonna playlist (for which A has been waiting patiently, as he requested it many months ago), as well as one inspired by Rick Dees’ legendary Weekly Top 40 program (archived episodes of which I’m thrilled to tell you are played on Sunday afternoons — commercial free! — on XM’s ’90s channel), but when I ran across the shimmering new single from one of the planet’s all-time great people — that sparkling newlywed Mandy Moore — on iTunes last week, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reaffirm my profound devotion to her boundless brilliance.


Out in front of the May 26 street date for Amanda Leigh, Moore’s much-anticipated sixth studio record, the terrific romp of a lead single “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week” stands as an invigorating blast of pop nirvana and proves for all the world that Moore is an artist to be reckoned with.  (Any doubts that remained about that very fact in the wake of the aural miracles Moore set free on 2007’s grand, wondrous Wild Hope, “Heart” washes them clean downstream.)


Clearly chasing that easygoing ’70s-ish vibe — and I dare you to tell me you can’t hear traces of Christine McVie’s patented “Say You Love Me”-era sass brightening this track’s corners — and nailing the groove and the feel of that time with peculiar gusto and verve, Moore continues her dazzling ascent into pop’s upper echelon, and she’s obviously having a ton of fun getting there.  Her confidence in her abilities as a musician grows stronger with each successive release, as does her keen ear for adventurous phrasing.  (Tell me you don’t worship the way she pronounces it as “annie” every last time she reaches that particular word in the song’s titular sentence!)


And so in order to prepare A (and any other non-believers out there) for the imminent onslaught which awaits him — because I guarantee you this:  if the forthcoming album is even half as brilliant as the one that precedes it in Moore’s discography, he’s gonna be hearing a lot of it this summer — it is my greatest pleasure to present a playlist of highlights from Moore’s charmed decade, starting with the very first glimpse we ever got of her true talent, and ending with the latest evidence that all those twenty-something starlets who believe they’ve got the singer/songwriter niche cornered would be well-advised to watch their backs, ’cause Miss Mandy is comin’ straight for you gals.


1.  “I Wanna Be With You” (from The Best of Mandy Moore) — Mandy Moore - The Best of Mandy Moore - I Wanna Be With You —  her debut single, 1999’s weightless piffle “Candy,” was an instantly forgettable piece of pop trash, and its follow-up “Walk Me Home” was even more painfully intolerable. So what a pleasant surprise this, Moore’s third single, turned out to be. Make no mistake, it’s still light as a feather, but it deftly introduces the quirks — a lilting quasi-falsetto, a playfully flirtatious coo, a serious love of backphrasing her verses — which would become her vocal signatures.

2.  “Cry” (from A Walk to Remember: Music from the Motion Picture) — Mandy Moore - A Walk to Remember - Cry — Moore took her career entirely to the next level with a starring role in the classic three-hanky weeper A Walk to Remember, and with this, the film’s soaring, irresistible love theme.

3.  “Moonshadow”Mandy Moore - Coverage - Moonshadow
4.  “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”Mandy Moore - Coverage - Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
5.  “Drop the Pilot” (from Coverage) — Mandy Moore - Coverage - Drop the Pilot
— Emboldened by the surprise success of Walk, which sufficiently and convincingly illustrated to the world at large that Mandy had more colors on her palette than cookie cutter teen starlet, Moore surreptitiously — read: without her record label’s knowledge and/or approval — decided to make her next project a risky (and terribly ambitious, and staggering) collection of covers of the stunningly famous pop songs by which she grew up being inspired. The track listing on Coverage is admirably bold, and there are roughly as many hits (a sexy as hell version of Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” which I’m pretty sure I like better than the original, and a thundering take on John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me” which I’m deadly sure I like better) as misses (the less said about Moore’s misfires on Blondie’s “One Way or Another” and Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move,” the better), but the album’s trifecta of true brilliance — a spellbinding take on Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow” (all naïve wonder, it puts Patti LaBelle’s signature cover to shame); a fiery version of Elton John’s early classic “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (whose lyrics sound amazingly natural falling from a female’s mouth); and a rollicking cover of Joan Armatrading’s “Drop the Pilot” (said it before, say it again: the hands-down best song ever written about trying to convince someone to turn lesbian) — is so powerful and dynamic, you’ll literally wonder where in the hell this young woman was hiding throughout the recording of her dreck-drenched debut. Thanks to Rod Stewart, the musical trend of the decade has absolutely been the covers album — even my beloved Tori Amos made one! — and to my ear, this one runs neck and neck with Wilson Phillips’ 2004 masterpiece California for the blue ribbon. Utter dynamite.

6.  “All Good Things” Mandy Moore - Wild Hope - All Good Things
7.  “Wild Hope” (from Wild Hope) — Mandy Moore - Wild Hope - Wild Hope
— if you had told me way back when that the girl who began this decade as a slutty Britney knockoff would end it as a stunningly worthy heir to Linda Ronstadt’s throne, I’d have never bought it. But by the time her terrific fourth album Wild Hope rolled around, damn if Moore hadn’t mastered both halves of her musical psyche — the spirited side (witness the bouncy “All Good Things”) and the somber side (witness the heartbreaking title track).

8.  “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week” (from Amanda Leigh) — Mandy Moore - I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week - Single - I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week — what I said at the beginning of the post still stands: an invigorating blast of pop nirvana. Moore takes a fun, happy-go-lucky lyric and knocks it clean out of the park.



3 responses to “in a crazy world, anything can happen if you will it
(or: i love you, mandy l. moore)”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    Y’all thought I had forgotten about this playlist, didn’t you? Well, life has been busy in my universe (involving all sorts of activities, especially driving, cars, and car parts), with this evening finally presenting an opportunity to give the Mandy Moore playlist the time and care it deserves.

    Surprisingly, 3/8 of the playlist already was already in my iTunes library, but it was certainly good to revisit these songs again. No doubt Mandy Moore’s covers album is a success (though, perhaps, not a smashing one), with her versions of “Have a Little Faith in Me,” “Drop the Pilot,” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” nearing or exceeding the originals. As for “Moonshadow,” what an odd song – I think it somehow flew over me (several times), both in the original and Mandy Moore’s executions.

    My immediate reactions to the rest of the songs on the playlist can best be summarized by a Brandonism: I didn’t hate them. Indeed, there were parts and aspects I quite liked – the refrain in “I Wanna Be With You,” the amusing (but meaningless) lyrics in “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week” to name a couple – but surely my favorite was “Wild Hope.” The instrumental introduction and the overall measured tone are simply superb.

    Now, let’s get on to the Madonna playlist! I’ve been waiting for that one since August!

  2. the buzz from brandon:

    Don’t you love how my darling beloved could sit and craft such a passionate, well-thought response to this playlist, and then not even tell us what he bought from it? Gotta love you, A!

  3. the buzz from A.:

    Well, in my defense, it has been a while since I’ve written one of these responses, so I did indeed neglect to clearly state the songs I bought from the playlist. Perhaps the interested reader can venture a guess before I proceed to state them: “Wild Hope” and “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week.”