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Mandy Moore and Caroline Rose: Two paths to pop maturity 

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Mandy Moore and Caroline Rose are both out to show that a 2020 pop album can be more than just effervescent ear candy. Moore felt so broken from her marriage to Ryan Adams, she virtually gave up Top 40 music for television acting. Silver Landings (Verve Forecast), her seventh album and first in more than a decade, has a melancholic jangly guitar feel reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Her new relationship with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes gives her an occasional hopeful lightness, with hints of Dawes’ own albums, but most of this painful, powerful album is summed up in the opening track “I’d Rather Lose.”

Rose began her career with two American-roots folk albums, shifting to brazen candy-pop in 2018’s Loner. Her new Superstar (New West) seems intended to inject more gravity into her music, though too much earnestness can rob her songs of the boldness of that earlier work. It’s when she’s at her most cryptic, in songs like “Command Z,” that Rose displays the most power. Even if she doesn’t throw as many gut punches as Moore, both women prove that in 2020, even mainstream pop can be pregnant with frank sobriety.

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