It’s so rare and refreshing when a teen star takes the high road. Mandy Moore doesn’t seem the most likely candidate to actually put music first: This B-level Orlando upstart played the jailbait card with her initial hit, “Candy,” then released an album, I Wanna Be With You, that was essentially a reconfigured, slightly improved reissue of her 1999 debut. But her new CD offers the most startlingly liberated teen pop since Eighties mall-rat icon Tiffany euphemistically declared herself “New Inside.”
Like Tiffany, Moore is more protorocker than R&B wanna-be. The neo-Sixties go-go of “Split Chick” argues that this seventeen-year-old should have starred in Josie and the Pussycats, while “When I Talk to You” suggests she could become the next Lisa Loeb. The Middle Eastern flavors of the single “In My Pocket” and other deliciously weird tracks raise a rhetorical question: Who knew Moore was the real genie in a bottle?