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From giggly to graceful

If you know Mandy Moore only from her sugary-sweet "Candy" days, maybe it's about time you had another taste.

From a teenage pop tart to a mature young woman, Moore has made the leap from giggly to graceful with ease. More refreshingly, the 23-year-old shows no signs of going to rehab or jail or shearing her scalp anytime soon.

See, refreshing.

2007 marks a new beginning for Moore. She released her new album, "Wild Hope," in June and has three movies out this year. Her comedy "License to Wed," co-starring Robin Williams and John Krasinski ("The Office"), opened last week.

Already this year, she has had cover stories or features in some 25 national magazines and newspapers. The media blitz is a reintroduction of sorts for the singer/actress.

Moore will play an exclusive B93.1 FM Music Café on Thursday at noon at Hero's Sports Lounge & Pizza Company in downtown Modesto. The invitation-only show is open to some 150 fans who will have won tickets through the radio station (551-9393 or www.b931.com).

The performer herself said she is keeping her expectations in check. As she told Elle magazine earlier this year about her new music: "I don't want any expectations. I just want people to know that I still sing. Most people don't realize that, or else they hate my music — rightfully so."

In that same article, Moore referred to both her music and acting as "mediocre." But that doesn't mean she isn't always striving to get better. On her new release, Moore wrote or co-wrote every song. She also collaborated with such independent singer/songwriters as Chantal Kreviazuk, Rachael Yamagata, The Weepies and Lori McKenna.

The result is a melodic, heartfelt collection of 12 acoustic-pop tracks tinged with undertones of folk and country. Standouts include the female empowerment ditty "Extraordinary" and slow-burn ballad "Gardenia."

"Her CD is more mature," said B93.1 FM Program Director Zac Davis. "At (age 23), I think she appeals to an audience that goes all the way from preteens to their moms and beyond."

When she burst on the scene at age 15, Moore was quickly clumped in with the rest of the pretty pop princesses dominating the airwaves at the time. The Florida-raised Moore told Self magazine that she knows people might not realize how much she has outgrown her past.

"I think musically, people think of me as the underdog," she told the magazine for a June cover story. "I understand why they think that because when I first came out, it was at the same time as Britney, Christina and Jessica Simpson, and I was kind of like the third or fourth wheel, just sort of tacked on there because I was the youngest. I understand that. I hope that people out there will respect the fact that I've grown and am a different person now with different musical taste. I hope the people who didn't like my music then will give me a chance."

While her music has been on the back burner for the past few years, Moore's acting career has progressed with bigger and bigger roles. Already this year, she has starred in the comedies "License to Wed" and "Because I Said So" (with Diane Keaton). Later this year, the indie dramedy "Dedication" (with Billy Crudup) will be released.

Her résumé already includes star turns in the films "A Walk to Remember," "Chasing Liberty" and "American Dreamz." She also has gleefully tweaked her perky-blonde, good-girl image in supporting roles in "The Princess Diaries" and "Saved!"

While her movie career chugs along, Moore projects a healthy attitude and self-image. She is blessedly free of the visible-sternum, protruding-ribcage look that is all the rage with so much of young Hollywood. As she told Us Weekly magazine last month, she being rail thin simply isn't her priority.

"Being a young woman in this industry, there's enough pressure, it's hard enough as it is," she said. "I felt like, for this job, you sacrifice so much already that the last thing I want to do is make myself feel really horrible."

That kind of outlook, said B93.1 FM's Davis, makes her a great role model for young girls today.

"She is unique and an alternative to the Paris Hiltons, Lindsay Lohans, Britney Spears out there. She is positive," he said.

Not that Moore hasn't been without her own romantic entanglements and disappointments. She famously has dated tennis star Andy Roddick, "Scrubs" star Zach Braff and infamous starlet chaser Wilmer Valderrama ("That '70s Show"), who has been linked to Lindsay Lohan, Ashlee Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jaime Pressly.

She has said the confessional lyrics and songs about heartbreak on "Wild Hope" aren't about anyone from her past specifically. Moore said she hopes the public will be open to her new work and her new maturity.

"I don't mind that people are like, 'Ah, you know, you're wholesome and you seem like a real good girl,'" she told the Associated Press last week. "That is who I am, that's quintessentially who I am, but there are some times where you don't want to exactly feel like someone can pin you down, or pinpoint exactly who you are."

To try to win tickets to see Mandy Moore at the B93.1 FM Music Café call 551-9393 or visit www.b931.com.

Bee entertainment writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284.

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