So Beautiful or So What

Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Paul Simon - "So Beautiful or So What"
I love Paul Simon. To borrow from an American Idol comment, he could probably sing the phone book and I’d listen. So it is I’m taking my first stab at New Music Tuesday with a review of So Beautiful or So What.

I hesitate to review this or any album. Music is very personal to me, it speaks to me about my own feelings and even discussing it is almost too personal. I also truly believe we each ‘hear’ parts of songs that speak to our souls in ways others might not see. 

Sort of like taking a group of tourists to a new wonder and having them all walk away with a completely different story about how they were moved by it. Also, the fact that Elvis Costello has reviewed this already leaves me a bit shaken, but here we go:

Like many of Simon’s songs, this album is full of songs about life, relationships and love: Love, and eternity, and the fragility of time running out. Can love be forever? Can love remain when we are gone? And , finally, what faces us in the end?

This is beautifully written in “Love and Hard Times”. After two parts of the trilogy come to earth -what remains is love.
“It’s hard to be grateful when you’re out of control,
And love is gone. 
The light at the edge of the curtain, Is the quiet dawn.
The bedroom breathes in clicks and clacks
Uneasy heartbeat…can’t relax.
But then your hand takes mine.
Thank God I found you in time,
Thank God, I found you,
Thank God, I found you.”
In “Questions for the Angels” Simon is looking at the world through clear lenses: what do we value, who do we value? And when it comes to wondering “who am I in this lonely world” the question is asked by fools and pilgrims alike. In a world where we are being sold on our own uniqueness, we are, in a very small way, more alike than we think.

I know that “Getting Ready for Christmas Day” is supposed to be emotionally charged. I still don’t enjoy listening to the song, though. While I like his use of Rev. J.M. Gates in the background what it speaks to me of is the idea that we still use emotional blackmail to get what we want out of others, even our soldiers. The song leaves me uncomfortable, but maybe it’s supposed to.

While I do not think every song on the album is his finest, I like that Paul Simon is looking at his mortality and asking some of the questions he is in his music. Most of his fans are aging, too, and he echoes a lot of the questions we find ourselves asking. The album is worth a listen.

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