2020 is already quite a year for early ’00s pop princess retrospectives: Britney‘s being honored with a walk-through career retrospective in the form of In The Zone experience in LA (erm, mixed feelings), and Jessica Simpson is currently appearing on every major news network to talk about her music, Newlyweds, and everything in between while promoting her memoir, Open Book.
So, what better time for Mandy Moore to show up and tell her side of the story?
“Fifteen” is an intimate offering from Mandy’s upcoming record Silver Landings due out in March, written with Jason Boesel, longtime collaborator Mike Viola and her husband, Taylor Goldsmith.
And yes: it’s all about being fifteen, and kicking off her pop star career during those bubblegum “Candy” days.
“Young girl, up early / Wasn’t old enough to drive / Took a trip from Seminole county with her mother side / Next stop, New York City / World was falling at her feet / She thought she was making music, but she was only filling seats,” she sings across the gently gliding guitar strings.
It’s taken Mandy quite a while to get to this place: an outspoken hater of her own back catalog, she bad-mouthed and apologized for her early pop career for years after taking a sharp left turn with her music into more folksy, singer-songwriter territory with Wild Hope and beyond.
After a few more years, she’s gained a different perspective.
“It’s been a full circle journey to embrace who I was as a teenager starting off in this industry and forgive my past self for judging her so harshly. For years, I apologized for the creative output of that time but in the making of this new collection of music, I was able to process so much and have come to have great affection for that young girl, that part of me, because she’s the reason I’m here today,” Mandy acknowledged on her Instagram. You know what that is? Growth.
The song itself is lovely, but it’s all about the lyricism, as Mandy reflects on how naive she was at the time – and all the life she missed out on while being a teenage pop star locked into the promotional machine.
“Glow sticks, pink cotton candy / A touch a glitter on her lips / Operate for the radio station so they’ll play her biggest hits / Missed prom, missed graduation, no college in the fall / On the road with the boy bands singing for the people in the mall.”
There’s even a REFERENCE to her debut album thrown in, which ought to send the diehards spiraling: “Somewhere between the demo and the lonely public eye / So real / Real famous, without even knowing why.”
Mandy should be proud of herself – for “Fifteen,” a great song – but also for pushing through. Regardless of how anyone else feels about her career, or how much we stan “Walk Me Home,” “I Wanna Be With You” and “In My Pocket,” she’s the one who has to reconcile her own feelings about launching to superstardom as a teenager.
Just this week, original meme queen Rebecca Black wrote a heartfelt note to 13-year-old self this week on the 9 year anniversary of “Friday,” which was met with an incredible outpouring of love. You never know the extent of how much someone’s own fame can haunt and hurt them, for whatever reason, for years and years after the fact.
“Fifteen” is the sound of a very human performer doing the work of pushing past harsh self-judgment for a moment in her life forever sealed into pop culture history.
No regrets, with a few exceptions.
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