Mandy Moore is just 25 years old. Doesn’t it seem like she should be around 40 by now? She’s been around for eons, starting as a teen star. Originally she was lumped in with Britney, Christina Aguilera, and that gang. Moore had one semi-hit called ‘Candy,’ (co-written by none other than Denise Rich), got into acting, but has never been totally focused.

Her bid to be taken seriously took her into an album called ‘Coverage’ where she random shuffled hits by the likes of XTC, Carole King, Joan Armatrading, and Cat Stevens. Then, just to add to the confusion, she married not a pop-star like Justin Timberlake, but went anti-Britney with the decade older indie star Ryan Adams. Weird, huh?

What does Mandy Moore want? Last night she hit Joe’s Pub to showcase her new album. ‘Amanda Leigh,’ and a Kelly Clarkson-ish catchy single ‘I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week.’ Adams was there. So were a cross-section of fans from girls who loved ‘Candy,’ to newer enthusiasts of Moore’s Joni Mitchell-esque persona.

From these songs, it sounded like Moore is actually going through an Aimee Mann phase. She’s got a producer/co-writer/musical director named Mike Viola who’s her own Jon Brion. Add this to the Clarkson single, a lot of Joni Mitchell, and a pinch of Stevie Nicks, and Moore brings new meaning to the word ‘eclectic.’

Still, in all, she can sing. And on stage she’s completely personable. There’s no doubt she wants to be taken seriously, which is fine. But her best number of the night was a reworked more adult version of ‘Candy,’ that lifted her from tortured 40 year old artist to really cool 25 year old pop singer. Call it smart pop. When Moore finds that groove again, she’ll have hits. Until then, we can just sit back and appreciate a work in progress.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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