Mandy Moore

As one of the 17 people who loved Sinéad O'Connor's Am I Not Your Girl?, the Irish oddball's much-reviled 1992 collection of big-band interpretations, I can't in good faith begrudge teen-pop moppet Mandy Moore the opportunity to confound whatever expectations people have of Mandy Moore by releasing Coverage, a new album comprising her versions of a dozen singer-songwriter chestnuts from the '70s and '80s. But girlfriend's reasoning sucks, since everyone can use another Britney Spears, yet no one I know is really hurting for a new Paula Cole, whose well-played middlebrow pop-rock Coverage approaches. And Moore's virtual disavowal of her older music--"We should have a gigantic nationwide bonfire!" she crowed to Blender about debut So Real--is stylistic revisionism of the worst kind: Leave behind the pervs, OK, but what about the high-sheen tweens who ate up "Candy" like it was candy?

Anyway, Coverage is fine enough listening: Moore navigates the tricky melodic contours of XTC's "Senses Working Overtime" and Todd Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends" with post-adolescent aplomb, brings adequate whimsy to Cat Stevens' "Moonshadow" and gusto to Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move," and gets out of the hardworking session guys' way in Joni Mitchell's horn-glazed "Help Me" and a keyb-heavy rendition of Joan Armatrading's "Drop the Pilot." (The singer provides a special kick at the top of a limp "One Way or Another" when she says, "This is new wave." You can decide if she's telling or asking.) But for all its technique and good taste, Coverage is ultimately as flavorless and disposable as Moore evidently thinks teen-pop is. The irony is so real.

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Mikael Wood

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