06/25/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT
Album of the week
It's getting hard these days to tell one sun-kissed teen pop queen from the next. And it might be a stretch to declare that on her third CD, Orlando native (and part-time MTV host) Mandy Moore
has boldly set herself apart from the other bare-tummied blonde girls. But credit the 17-year-old singer for at least trying to stake out her own identity. Like most TRL acts, Moore puts out a brand of infectious pop that does not bubble from her own creative well but from a team of hired-gun producers and songwriters. Luckily, her Svengalis are an especially savvy and diverse group who bring an off-kilter flavor to a usually formulaic genre. Among contributing elders are song scribe Diane Warren ("From Loving You") and hitmakers Jon Secada and Emilio Estefan Jr., who supply Moore with percussive tracks on four tunes, including "In My Pocket," which is laced with a sinewy Middle Eastern sound. Although the exotic air gets stale after repeated use on several other cuts, Moore gets breathy over a jangly beat on the heartfelt "17," which suits her lighter-than-air vocals nicely. This disc may not have a shelf life much longer than that of an ice cream cone, but it's just as right for summer.
Bottom Line: Moore fun than most