Of the three albums of material that she's recorded to date, Mandy Moore says that she'd be content if only one song was heard by the pop masses: her new single, "Cry." "I carried around a copy of tha

Of the three albums of material that she's recorded to date, Mandy Moore says that she'd be content if only one song was heard by the pop masses: her new single, "Cry."

"I carried around a copy of that song for over a year before I recorded it," she notes with a smile. "It felt like my ace in the hole. It's such a beautiful song on every level. I couldn't wait to get into the studio and sing it."

Once she did, Moore jokes that James Renald -- who wrote the song and produced the track with Peter Mokran -- had to "literally peel" her out of the recording booth. "I wanted to sing it over and over again," she says. "As much as I love every song I've recorded, I never felt such a perfect connection with any other song I've done before."

"Cry" is featured on the artist's current eponymous Epic collection, which was issued during the summer of 2001. It's also the single ushering in the soundtrack to Moore's forthcoming feature film, "A Walk to Remember." The soundtrack was issued Jan. 15 on Epic.

In addition to "Cry," the soundtrack offers three new songs by Moore: the gently percussive "It's Gonna Be Love"; the delicate, piano-driven ballad "Only Hope"; and a duet with John Foreman of Switchfoot, "Someday We'll Know," a song penned by Gregg Alexander, formerly of the New Radicals.

Additionally, the set includes songs from Rachael Lampa ("If You Believe"), Switchfoot ("Learning to Breathe," "Dare You to Move," "You," and the aforementioned "Only Hope"), the New Radicals ("Mother, We Just Can't Get Enough"), and Toploader ("Dancing in the Moonlight").

The release of "Cry" and the soundtrack is well-timed, as both will allow Moore the opportunity to relaunch her current album -- a potent pop set that has yet to find a deservedly wide audience.

"We're not even close to closing the book on this record," says Moore's manager, Jon Leshay, president of the Los Angeles-based Storefront Entertainment. "But, in truth, Mandy's whole world isn't riding on this project. We're building a long-term career, not simply working a record. This project has already done a good job of establishing that she's not a cookie-cutter teen artist."

Indeed, Mandy Moore earned high critical marks for mining a varied sound that ranges from the dance flavor of the previous single "In My Pocket" and the hitworthy "You Remind Me" -- a pair of Emilio Estefan Jr./Randall Barlow productions that are rife with Middle Eastern elements -- to rock-learning fare like the giddy, radio-ready "Split Chick" and the strumming "Turn the Clock Around."

"This is a record that should have been massive," says Marlon Creaton, manager of Record Kitchen, an indie retail outlet in San Francisco. "It has about four strong pop singles on it. Also, it doesn't sound anything like the other teen girls making records right now. Maybe this new single will help pull attention to the album."

Scott Carter, VP of marketing at Epic, thinks that the odds of Moore finding a wide mainstream audience are "strong. She has amazing goodwill out there. People -- both within and outside of the industry -- meet her and love her instantly. She's a real charmer and a genuine talent. She was also smart enough to make a record that was fresh and interesting. It's just a matter of bringing it to the public now."

For Moore, the album was an intentional step to the left of the ongoing teen-pop movement. "All of the music has started to look and sound the same," she says. "While I was making this album, I decided that it was time for me to move away from that. No more dancers, no more singing to tracks. I got tired of that in a big way."

As a result, the artist opted to only do promotional shows with full band support. "It's made a huge difference. It challenges me as a performer, and it shows the strength of the material."

There are no plans for Moore to tour in the immediate future -- a fact that she's itchy to change. As much as she has enjoyed acting in "A Walk to Remember," as well as last summer's hit "The Princess Diaries," she perceives herself primarily as a musical artist. It's a point of view bolstered by her experiences as a road veteran, having trekked across the U.S. several times with Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync.

"There's nothing better than being onstage and living fully in the moment," Moore says. "Every show is different, because every audience brings a different chemistry into the room. It can be a terrifying experience. But it's also the most exciting, exhilarating thing for a performer to experience."

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