Paul Simon’s Most ‘Beautiful’ Album

Paul Simon adds yet another feather to his hat with his 12th studio album “So Beautiful Or So What.”  This album comes five years after his last album, “Surprise,” and just when you thought that you had heard it all, you are left surprised once again! As for all you hermits who don’t know the works of Paul Simon, maybe Graceland, Rhythm of the saints or maybe the guy from Simon and Garfunkel might ring a bell.

Since parting ways from Simon and Garfunkel in 1970, Paul Simon has created a pretty little niche as a solo artist for himself by winning 12 Grammys. And hence came my apprehension with his latest album. Not that I don’t like his music – far from it! – I adore it, as I have been listening to him since he was a part of Simon and Garfunkel. However, I was scared that this album would disappoint me. After all, there is only so much an artist can do artistically. But I was pleasantly surprised; not only is this album amazing, but in fact, it is his best so far.

Lets jump straight into the album. The first song is  “Getting Ready for Christmas day” and this song sets the tone for the whole album. It is a vibrant and has a gospel touch to it. Rather than celebrating the Christmas season, the song is about the essence of Christmas and it entwines the sermon “Getting Ready For Christmas” by Rev J.M Gate from 1941.

The next song is titled “The Afterlife” and it lightly jokes about his perceived notion of life after death. This is another fun song, with fast paced beats and showcasing his mastery as a lyricist.

“Dazzling Blue” follows, and it is a song primarily influenced by Indian beats, instruments and has a relaxed feeling to it. Simons is comfortable with bringing different sounds and music from around the world into his songs, as he has done with his previous hit albums “Graceland” and “Rhythm of the Saints,”  and this one is no exception. It is a break from the upbeat music and leaves the listener dazzled.  Next comes a very quirky number “Rewrite,” which just has two guitars, a beat, whistling and his vocals at the center.

By the middle of the album, I was treated by “Amulet,” a minute and half piece of classical guitar played by Paul Simons. At 69, he still has not lost his Midas touch. For all the Paul Simon die-hard fans, do not fret; you will be at ease once you hear “Questions for the Angels.” This song epitomizes Paul Simon and his music. It has a resemblance to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and hints of his other songs here and there.

But for me the song that stood out was “Love and Blessings.” It has a very blue grassy feel to it and has a clarinet solo right in the middle. I personally found it to be the most artistically diverse song, as it changes from fast to slow to jazzy in a span of four and a half minutes.

Surprisingly, the album’s title “So Beautiful or So What” is the last song in the ten-song album. This song transcends into the folk rock genre, a place that Simons is very comfortable with, and the comfort level can be heard in this song, as he is not scared of experimenting with the various elements in this genre.

In this album, Paul Simon stretches his creativity as a musician and brings in various styles and genres into the multi-faceted album. At the same time, he stays true to his style of lyrics and his roots of folk music, the genre he made his forte in. In the words of Paul Simon himself, “Music making is who you are and it doesn’t go away!”

Talking about the lyrics well lets just say they are akin to poetry. Its awe-inspiring that after 30 years in the music industry, Paul Simon can write such beautiful and unique lyrics. And all the while passing on the message of joy, happiness, questions of life, love and hope.

Overall, “So Beautiful or So What” is a refreshing album set in an era surrounded by electro-synthesized music. This album is a must if you are an ardent listener of folk music, like good lyrics or enjoy the work of Paul Simon. If you’re not of the above, give this album a try, as it has motley of influences and you are bound to find something you will like. One song is definitely going to get stuck in your head!

Rating: 4/5