When the Hotel Café became a nationally recognized launching pad for songwriters in 2008, Ingrid Michaelson stood out amongst artists who regularly played the venue, flaunting a confident sound that was a cut above the average female crooner. Her second indie album, Girls and Boys, made waves one year prior when it topped some digital charts, eventually selling over 740,000 copies of its lead single thanks to licensing deals with Old Navy and Grey's Anatomy. Released in 2008, Be OK continues her Norah Jones-gone-pop approach with 11 tracks. This isn't a proper studio effort -- rather, it's a benefit project (with proceeds going to cancer research) that takes its material from live performances, rarities, and several new tracks. Filled with handclaps and breezy guitar chords, the titular "Be OK" bookends the set list with two different versions -- one filled with harmonies, keyboards, and percussion, and the other sticking closer to an acoustic arrangement. Michaelson's voice is strong enough to carry those tracks alone, but her melodies sound strongest when flanked by harmonies, whether they're provided by the singer's own double-tracked voice or contributions from her touring bandmates. "The Chain," a longtime live favorite and perhaps the best song on this disc, even careens into a three-person round, utilizing the harmony approach better than any Michaelson track since "The Way I Am." She leads the pack, advising her ex-lover to "glide away on soapy heels" while her melodies are echoed by Bess Rogers and Allie Moss. It's a simple song, but its presentation makes all the difference -- a telltale sign of a songwriter who knows how to breathe new life into a veteran genre.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey