Release Date: March 6th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- I’d Rather Lose
- Save a Little For Yourself
- Tryin’ My Best, Los Angeles
- Easy Target
- When I Wasn’t Watching
- Stories Reminding Myself Of Me
- If That’s What It Takes
- Silver Landings
Mainstream music has always been a foreign thing to me prior to my blog post series that I started to undertake last year. Not that there’s anything wrong with listening to mainstream music, I know plenty of people who are good loving Christians who do in fact prefer mainstream music over Christian music. And that’s ok. But for me throughout my childhood, I grew up listening to Carman, Delirious?, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tim Hughes, the people who solidified my own faith in Jesus was in fact people who specialised in singing about Him. And thus now as I continue to grow in my faith, I realise that mainstream music and music that doesn’t explicitly sing about Jesus, but rather sing about life and all its struggles, isn’t necessarily the big, bad thing that we often believe it is. Mainstream music can be as pivotal and poignant to the society of today as can Christian music be, because if all good music that speaks to the soul comes from God anyway, then it doesn’t matter if a word about Jesus is spoken or not- God can use whoever, whomever, and whatever, to convey what He wants us to understand and comprehend, even if the music is just a regular pop song on the radio. Enter in Mandy Moore, an Emmy Award winning, Teen Choice Award nominated actress and singer, who has been in and around the entertainment industry since she was 15. Known for being both a musician and an actor, her roles in both This is Us and A Walk to Remember all those years ago, are some of the highlights of her acting career, while albums from her youth till now, from So Real, I Wanna Be With You and Coverage, to Wild Hope and Amanda Leigh; form her music career to date. While she has been in and around the music industry for quite some time, she hasn’t created a new set of songs for 11 years, up until now of course. Released earlier this month, Mandy has unveiled to us her Fleetwood Mac-inspired album in Silver Landings, an album that has shown me what it means to make a very introspective and positively encouraging and uplifting mainstream album- one that while isn’t Christian, still carries messages and encrouagements still symbolic of the Christian ethos and worldview. Mandy’s new music is a far cry from her bubblegum pop of yesteryear, and with one listen to Silver Landings from start to finish, we see a much more reflective and inspirational message amongst these 10 songs than the teen pop that she starting off with back in the day. There’s growth and maturity in these songs that make this album one of this year’s most unexpected- in a good way. Can God use such an album as this to bring people closer toward Himself? Is this album worth checking out, no matter your religious persuasion or lack thereof? Most definitely, to both!
Mandy Moore is a public figure in her own right. Her presence in This is Us and the natural success of that particular TV show has made this album release from her all the more intriguing, especially the fact that her previous album aside from Silver Landings was 11 years ago- enough time passing for any artist in any genre of music to be forgotten (then I guess, if someone like Shania Twain- from 2002’s Up to 2017’s Now can make a comeback, then Mandy can as well). Nevertheless, Mandy’s new album of just 10 songs is just enough for us to see what she’s been up to since her last offering of Amanda Leigh way back in 2009. Yes, she’s been in the Disney cartoon movie Tangled alongside the emotive and powerful NBC show This is Us, but prior to acting, she was in music and it is good to see someone go back to a love and a profession they were initially in, that they enjoyed whence they first started, even if it is a little bit of a break (in Mandy’s case, 11 years) between albums.
‘When I Wasn’t Watching’ is Mandy’s first radio single from the album; and released to digital outlets in September of last year. Upon hearing the song in its entirety in 2019, I hadn’t heard any, if at all, of Mandy’s previous material, and maybe that was a good thing. Right now currently I’m listening to Mandy’s music (because she is one of my upcoming artists I’ll be discussing in my blog posts very, very soon), and there is a big contrast and distinction between teenage-Mandy and adult-Mandy. Both versions and both musical styles have their place in society and both touch on different social groups and people. Which is ok. ‘When I Wasn’t Watching’ the song touches on the notion of how change over time can be unassuming and where you were before and where you are now can be polar opposites. You may think you want to be this and then in the end, you can shape and be moulded into a character you may not be pleased with. Nevertheless, ‘When I Wasn’t Watching’ speaks of the quickness of how someone can change their character, their personality, just who they are behind the scenes, and it may not be their own doing. Nevertheless, such a song as this gives us comfort in knowing that changes, as inevitable as they are, are essential for growth and transformation, and in Mandy’s case, from music to acting then back to music can bring with it valuable life lessons. Often changes come when we are indeed not looking, when we’re pre-occupied with the urgent-but-not-important things of life. Changes can be better managed when we’re more in tune with said changes, and such a song as this can be a catalyst for us to sit up and become more aware of ourselves, maybe before its too late and we change into someone we don’t want to become…permanently.
‘I’d Rather Lose’ is an anthem in its own right, and a song that everyone needs to take notice of as it speaks wonders about what’s going on with society at the moment. For it is in when I take notice and see around me, that I can understand that this world we live in, likes to play by rules that often at times, we didn’t sign up for in the first place. Competitions, be it singing, food, cooking, dating or otherwise, are looking more to drum up sales rather than to find the next big thing and nurture them before they travel out into the big wide world. Truth is often compromised in favour of things that are indeed sensational, while governments try to appease anyone and everyone, while at the end of the day, never do anything wholeheartedly at all. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and often, people lie, cheat and steal to climb the corporate ladder and get ahead in life, at the expense of everyone else. ‘I’d Rather Lose’ is a statement, and in Mandy’s own words, reminds us all that ‘…I feel like it’s increasingly polarized and divided, and I think the idea of truth is being called into question on a daily basis. There’s a part of me that’s like, I never signed up for this game. I don’t want to play this game, because there’s no way to win, and I’m not competitive enough to want to throw myself into this game. So you know what? If this is the case, then I’d rather lose if that’s what I’m up against. I’m fine to take the L on this, and to walk away, because it just doesn’t matter enough to me…’ To lose doesn’t mean to give up fighting the good fight, but rather, it is showing moral character and a sense of self worth and sticking by personal values that we hold dear and know to be true, rather than surrendering to the corporate structure and compromising to appease different groups and attain and amass things we don’t really need. Relationships with family and friends matter, and ‘I’d Rather Lose’ makes us think what is really important in our lives- the human connection, or money, power and fame, that often crumbles in an instant anyway?
Throughout the rest of the album, we see Mandy impart to us moments of understanding and reflection, and other moments of deep introspection and realisations, as Silver Landings becomes more of an album that I’m very certain God can and will use to show us more about Himself and ourselves in the process of us listening and deconstructing our own understanding and belief of what we think motivational and inspirational music to be. ‘Save A Little For Yourself’ has a ‘live-band’ atmosphere as acoustic guitars and a piano take centre stage musically as Mandy relays a theme that we all need to consider- save a little for ourselves. Whatever it is- energy needs to be placed into ourselves in the form of physical energy (food), sleep, relaxing and levelling out (it can be either called prayer, meditation, reflecting, whatever the case may be), before we are at a place where we can help others, or as Mandy herself puts it, ‘…if you’re not considering yourself and taking care of your needs and saving something for yourself, you’re going to be of no use and no good to anyone else around you…’ ‘Fifteen’ is an ode to her younger self as Mandy reflects upon her teenage years in music, years that may have robbed her of her childhood that she can never get back. Never once is the song bitter about the decisions that were made (either herself or others making it for her) about her early career, just acknowledging that these things happened and that these circumstances shape who she is today. ‘Fifteen’ reflects upon the years and the sacrifices it took to get into an industry where she was always on the second tier of artists behind those like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson, and reminds us all that it is ok to make a wrong turn here and there- we can all learn from mistakes, and ‘Fifteen’ just shows us immensely that often, starting young in a music industry can often do more harm than good. ‘Trying My Best Los Angeles’ harkens back to when Mandy herself moved to Los Angeles as a result of her career in music; and trying to make something work in a city that is very large and often unforgiving. The song itself speaks of trying to make sense of why, when you do all the right things, it doesn’t add up to what you want. You move city, you adopt a different way of life, you uproot yourself, you give yourselves all the opportunities there are to pursue what you love, and then it doesn’t work out how you like or even in the time frame you want… ‘Trying My Best Los Angeles’ is a reminder to stick at your dreams, and to remember that a dream was borne inside of you a long time ago, and maybe, delays and setbacks are just an avenue or opportunity to grow more empathically as well as being susceptible to change and flexibility rather than expecting things to always work out in a certain time frame.
‘Easy Target’ describes how celebrities often feel on the pedestal of life- being an easy target for online trolls and haters, for people expecting you to act in a certain way or to be a certain mould, when all they’re wanting is for you to produce and to give results, without any care of the actual person themselves. Being an easy target can bring with it a lot of unwanted pressure to perform, but as I’m reminded through this song and through the whole album and even by Mandy’s demeanour in various other interviews online; Mandy reminds us that being an easy target isn’t a bad thing- it just means that celebrities, or just people connected via social media, have the opportunity to use such a platform to help and to inform, to encourage and to challenge people’s perceptions of society, in a way that is non-threatening as we experience something outside our worldview. ‘Forgiveness’ brings down the tempo quite a lot to just acoustics and a light percussion beat as the most personal song by Mandy is brought to light. ‘Forgiveness’ touches upon the hurt from her early career as a musician, alongside the hurt of her broken marriage. As she reminds us all in the song, forgiveness isn’t really for the other person. They may not be around or may not be listening or even accept the forgiveness that you give to them. But rather, forgiveness is for you, to stop you eating yourself up inside, wondering the what-ifs and becoming bitter because you wish you could’ve done something better at an earlier stage to avoid all this. ‘Forgiveness’ is a mellow song, as it should be- contemplative and introspective, and a song that we are people should delve deep into and ask the question- do we need to forgive people in our past, before we can truly move on fully and live life to what we believe God intends us to do?
‘Stories Reminding Myself of Me’ brings the tempo back up again as Mandy reminisces the difference between music and acting- and that as much as you can immerse yourself into a role for acting and place all your life experience into it, it really isn’t who you are- it’s a role. As Mandy reminds us, that stories often told through acting, reminds Mandy of herself, but it isn’t herself. Music is a much more raw and intimate level to bring the personable into existence and for people to get a glimpse into personal vulnerabilities without any judgement or shame. Music for Mandy has been a gift and treasure all these years, and with her own words, implicates that ‘…I’m so excited about bringing music back into my world in this fully realized way, because there is a huge part of myself that has been dormant that I have missed and I’ve missed being able to share…’ The album then ends with songs ‘If That’s What it Takes’ and the title track ‘Silver Landings’, both of which have very emotive meanings tied behind the songs themselves- ‘If That’s What it Takes’ speaks of the rocky road Mandy has had from stardom to now, and the newfound faith she’s had in marriage and the commitment between her and her husband; as we see that love itself is about sacrificing the needs of oneself to look after the other in whatever capacity and way possible; while ‘Silver Landings’ itself, the last song on the album, speaks of, you guessed it, silver landings. It’s like ‘silver linings’ but the concept being actualised on solid ground. An understanding that everything someone goes through, good or bad, is ultimately for a purpose that even we don’t understand, but nevertheless, a purpose. The song is acknowledging God in an interesting weird way, understanding that there are things far beyond our control that weave our paths in directions we may not actually pick straight off the bat, but rather, it is in these moments of detour that we can self-discover and understand that greater purpose can often be achieved when things in our lives go out of whack and we grow because of it.
Mandy’s has had a whirlwind of a career in music thus far. And her new album Silver Landings is the result of all the hard toil she has endured all this time. Is it worth it? Yes. This album is a mainstream album, but the implications and applications of said album to society is for anyone, even lovers of CCM and worship music included (like myself). Sure there are no references to God or Jesus (besides, I don’t even know what religion Mandy is affiliated with), but that doesn’t matter for the music to be impactful. God can use even the most unassuming of music to bring people to a place of understanding the world and themselves and even God better. Songs like ‘I’d Rather Lose’, ‘Fifteen’, ‘Trying My Best Los Angeles’ and ‘If That’s What It Takes’ are all tracks that impact me, and others will impact you all as well. This is an album that won’t be as popular as other ‘standout’ albums from 2020, but maybe, that’s ok and doesn’t really matter. As I’ve said time and time again in my blog series, influence and popularity doesn’t need to marry together, nor does it should. Mandy is influential and not really that popular (in terms of music) and that’s ok. Silver Landings is sure going to change that for the better. Well done Mandy for such an eye-opening and emotive album, well done for such a powerful set of songs that challenge us into believing for real the ‘silver landings’ that God places in our way of life, we just need to be in tune to the Lord to see them!
3 songs to listen to: I’d Rather Lose, Fifteen, Trying My Best, Lost Angeles
RIYL: Fleetwood Mac, The Corrs, Delta Goodrem, Francesca Battistelli