The ultimate winner of the increasingly competitive teen-pop sweepstakes is the act capable of keeping irresistible, radio-smart hooks plentiful while also mining fresh musical ground.

The ultimate winner of the increasingly competitive teen-pop sweepstakes is the act capable of keeping irresistible, radio-smart hooks plentiful while also mining fresh musical ground. On her third set, Mandy Moore (who has always been an underdog against Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera) surprisingly pulls ahead of the pack with an album that successfully accomplishes both. Collaborating with a bevy of producers that includes Emilio Estefan, she explores sounds that range from funk-fortified disco and Middle-Eastern rhythms to rock-etched pop. Frequently pouting and purring with a natural ease that recalls early Madonna, Moore is particularly effective on the percussive first single, "In My Pocket," as well as "You Remind Me," each a lean, hip-hop-spiked jam that should be destined for airwave saturation. When Moore swaps her breathy tones for a more full-bodied vocal, as on the acoustic "Cry," she reveals a performer with the skills to bypass the teen race and firmly establish herself as a credible, durable artist.—LF