Miss America

Mary Margaret O'Hara

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Miss America Review

by Jason Ankeny

Originally recorded in 1984 and not released until 1988, Miss America still sounds light years ahead of its time: Mary Margaret O'Hara is a force of nature, a remarkable singer and composer whose crystal-clear soprano acrobatics and hypnotic songs defy accepted conventions. Flirting intermittently with country ("Anew Day," "Dear Darling") and jazz ("Keeping You in Mind"), O'Hara works primarily with pop dynamics, but deconstructs and reassembles the form according to her own blueprint: "Year in Song" is jaggedly intense, "To Cry About" is gorgeously ambient, and "Body's in Trouble" is delicately gripping, yet none conform easily to such facile assessments, with hairpin turns in mood and atmosphere which blindside expectations. Following instead its own abstract internal logic, Miss America is a work of mad-scientist genius, and it remains a singular experience.

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