‘A Walk to Remember’ Soundtrack Is the Pinnacle of Early 2000s Teen Angst
Believe it or not, A Walk To Remember turns 20 this year. An iconic tearjerker, the movie premiered Jan. 25, 2002. As era-appropriate stars Smash Mouth say, the years start coming and don't stop coming, right?
The film effectively served as a launching point for star Mandy Moore's acting career. Then a fresh-faced teen, her music career had already taken flight, but her acting credits were pretty much limited to a role in 2001's The Princess Diaries.
Starring in A Walk To Remember set Moore on a path that would lead to future roles in the likes of Saved! (an underrated classic, don't try to convince us otherwise), Tangled and, more recently, This Is Us.
Of course, anyone who has seen A Walk To Remember knows Moore used her sweet voice to perfect effect on screen. Her status as a pop princess at the time all but guaranteed her a spot (four, to be exact) on the soundtrack, too.
A Walk To Remember retains a cult following to this day, and its soundtrack is every bit as legendary. Better yet, it serves as the perfect time capsule for the musical atmosphere of the era.
The year 2002 was a transitional one in the industry. Eminem reigned supreme on Billboard's year-end 200 Albums chart. Alt-rockers Creed came in at second place, while offerings from Nelly, Linkin Park and Nickelback landed within the Top 10.
That doesn't even offer a sense of the state of pop.
As rappers and rock stars dominated the scene, Pink cemented her status as the anti-Britney Spears with M!ssundaztood. It was the year's fourth best-selling album.
Spears' own self-titled effort landed a few rungs below it on the chart. Meanwhile pop-punk queen Avril Lavigne waved hello with Let Go, which clocked in on Top 20. Further diversifying the genre, singer/songwriters such as Vanessa Carlton and Norah Jones were coming into their prime.
The era of bubblegum pop peaked in the late '90s. Now the scene was evolving and taking on even more of an emotional edge as stars delved into lyrical angst and dabbled in rock.
The A Walk To Remember soundtrack delivered on both fronts.
Mandy Moore contributed four songs to the soundtrack
Mandy Moore's four A Walk To Remember offerings are a throwback to the glory days of teen-driven pop.
"Cry" — a track fans will recognize from Moore's self-titled album the year prior — is a masterclass in the art of treacly balladry. Buoyed by a candy-coated production, Moore's vocals and delivery are wide-eyed and earnest.
Lyrically, "Cry" is every bit as angsty and dramatic as its title suggests. Moore sings about falling for a partner the moment she sees them... ya know, cry. (We totally understand the desire to applaud emotional transparency. Frankly, she was ahead of her time here.)
Mandy Moore "Cry" Audio
Moore's second contribution is another original called "It's Gonna Be Love." While the track could have been performed by any of the teen queens of the era, Moore puts her stamp on the soulful love song.
She also lends her voice to a cover of New Radicals' "Someday We'll Know" alongside Switchfoot lead singer Jonathan Foreman.
Speaking of Switchfoot, Moore's final song is probably the most renowned from the film: a cover of the band's "Only Hope," which plays during a pinnacle moment onscreen.
Moore opened up about the cover on Twitter in 2017. "I loved the original version," she wrote. "So I was a bit nervous to record it." The star admitted that she hit her stride once it was time to film the pivotal scene where she performs the cover.
Twenty years later, her performance instantly takes listeners back in time. We say that with the utmost confidence because Moore proved it in 2020. She dusted off a stripped-back interpretation at the start of the pandemic. Check it out below.
Mandy Moore's 2020 Performance of "Only Hope"
Switchfoot became a household name
Switchfoot is the only name that appears on the track list as often as Moore.
In 2002 the band was still carving out a place for itself. However, E! News notes that they attracted the attention of Moore's manager, John Leshay. He fell for their sound and knew "Only Hope" was perfect for the project.
Switchfoot supplied the track and three additional songs to the film: "I Dare You To Move" — which became a single on their 2003 breakout album, The Beautiful Letdown — opens the soundtrack, while "Learning to Breathe" and "You" add an easy listening, soft rock edge to the album.
Switchfoot's "I Dare You To Move" Music Video
"I Dare You To Move" went on to become the group's biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Arguably their involvement with A Walk To Remember and such prime placement on the soundtrack helped catapult Switchfoot's career to the next level.
Don't forget heartthrob Shane West
Mandy Moore was not the only actor-singer to get a feature on the track list. You may not know this, but leading man Shane West is also musically inclined.
West was in a punk rock band at the time he joined the film. He told Vulture that he approached the team with a song, which managed to make the cut for the project.
He and his band contributed "So What Does It All Mean?" and are credited by their last names (West, Gould, Fitzgerald) because they didn't have a band name at the time. They later adopted the name Johnny Was.
The heartthrob joked that the name made them look like a law firm, but the walloping anthem very clearly does not sound like the work of a legal team.
Johnny Was "So What Does It All Mean?" Audio
Johnny Was is no longer an active band; however, West continues to perform today. Musically, the film served as one of his first big breaks.
The soundtrack dabbled in rock and Christian pop
The rest of the track list reflects upon the shifting sound of the era.
Rock group Cold adds more of a tough vibe with "No One," which works nicely considering we were coming into the height of Creed's popularity in 2002.
We already established that Moore covered New Radicals — that may explain why the group landed on the soundtrack, too. Their rousing anthem "Mother, We Just Can't Get Enough" is a sing-along bop with no shortage of replay factor 20 years later.
British band Toploader's take on "Dancing in the Moonlight," a cover of King Harvest's original, hit No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001, according to Insider. That alone makes it a smart and recognizable addition.
Meanwhile, Christian singer Rachael Lampa has the distinction of being the only woman to sing on the soundtrack aside from Moore. Her contribution, "If You Believe," is another throwback love song to the glory days of '90s bubblegum.
Balancing a multitude of sounds and no shortage of emotions, the A Walk To Remember soundtrack holds up as a tribute to a time when music was on the brink of a major shift. Next time you have a chance, give it a listen and prepare to be hit with a flood of memories from an era that, despite our collective nostalgia, is rapidly fading out in the rear view mirror.