In an era where seemingly every fly-by-night pop star has acting aspirations or every big screen starlet has dreams of a singing career, it's difficult to remember who did what first. Luckily enough, Mandy Moore's first studio album in four years, Wild Hope, reminds fans that the musician-turned-actress still has a singing career. It's a shame that after this long, Moore doesn't really have much to say. Moore broke into the limelight in 1999 at the age of 15 with So Real, an album full of pop hits that soon became popular fare at junior high school dances. After four previous albums full of Moore singing other peoples' songs, she finally performs her own material on Wild Hope-albeit material co-written with others. Nonetheless, Moore's vocals are as strong as they were eight years ago and her songs are well-constructed. Given her singing experience, it's not surprising. What is surprising is how unremarkable Wild Hope turns out to be.
Wild Hope is an enjoyable, breezy listen, but also has the potential to frustrate some. Moore's outgrown the teen beat oeuvre and settled into the female singer-songwriter realm, but this has left her just another pretty face in a sea of them. Given how long Moore has been a professional musician, it's a little frustrating that her fifth album sounds pretty much the same as those of her less-experienced contemporaries. Despite all the things it has going for it, Wild Hope is merely an album that fails to make any kind of lasting impression.