“What I became when I wasn’t watching…”

After over a decade of craving, crying, hoping, lifting our hands and praying with nothing but pennies in our pocket, Amanda Leigh Moore has returned to us – as Mandy Moore, The Singer – at last.

Barring a smattering of TV and movie contributions, like the Tangled soundtrack and, more recently, a cover of “Willin'” by Linda Ronstadt for the soundtrack of This Is Us in 2017, “When I Wasn’t Watching,” out on Tuesday (September 17), is the first real – so, so real – single from Mandy Moore in ten years…and an especially meaningful one at that.

Spent a whole life waiting patiently, convinced it all would come to me…

For those fearing a “return-to-roots,” country-pop return based on the final few records before her extended hiatus – after all, Wild Hope yee-d so Joanne could haw – fear not: this isn’t that. It’s also not a return to the bubblegum pop-era “Candy” Mandy, either, but then, Mandy’s been musically steering clear of that material since 2003’s Coverage.

My favorite version of me disappeared, through longer days and shorter years…

Instead, “When I Wasn’t Watching” – produced by Amanda Leigh collaborator Mike Viola and co-written with Jason Boesel and her husband Taylor Goldsmith – finds the now 35-year-old singer-songwriter-turned-Emmy Award-nominated actress taking inventory of the life she’s led thus far, not straying far from the contemplative lane she paved for herself years ago with Wild Hope and Amanda Leigh, but dwelling into dreamier, ’80s-tinged adult contemporary territory, with a nostalgic opening that vaguely recalls Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time After Time.”

The fear of what I’m facing in the mirror stops me cold and leaves me here / A little lost, a little rough, the lack of answers all add up…

Like fellow actress-who-sings Leighton Meester and her gorgeous, overlooked 2014 record Heartstrings (one of that year’s best albums), Mandy finds her sweet spot – like candy, if you will – in the sound of dreamy, reverb-y guitar, punchy drums (it’s got a bit of a kick to it, mercifully) and pleasant harmonies. Mandy sounds lovely and restrained throughout – that chorus is an earworm too, especially those low notes.

Mandy’s return to the spotlight feels authentic to her artistry, and makes sense as her next step. And when modern acts like Post Malone are giving us melancholy guitar music, there’s arguably even more of a place for Mandy’s sound now than in the years of her absence. It’s a refreshing way to begin again.

The return of Mandy also represents more than just a pop star rebooting her singing career.

As you might already be aware, Mandy, along with a group of other women, came forward with allegations of misconduct and manipulation against her ex-husband Ryan Adams in a New York Times article back in February. Ryan discouraged her from working with any other producers, and told her she’s “not a real musician” according to Mandy, who claims his controlling behavior “essentially did block my ability to make new connections in the industry during a very pivotal and potentially lucrative time.”

She effectively stopped releasing music after their marriage. This comeback is about pushing past self-doubt and doing the damn thing, anyway.

“It’s been ten years since I’ve released music and to be able to confidently step back in to this world with some of my very favorite humans and artists beside me (@taylordawesgoldsmith, @themikeviola, @dawestheband and @herbadams) is something else all together. I’m thrilled to share the first track from my forthcoming record. It’s been a bit of a winding road to get here but so worth it,” she wrote on Instagram.

Welcome back. Love always, Mandy.

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