So Beautiful or So What Image

Universal acclaim - based on 27 Critics What's this?

User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 29 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Summary: The veteran singer-songwriter releases his 12th studio album, the first in five years.
  • Record Label: Hear Music
  • Genre(s): Singer/Songwriter, Adult Contemporary, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Soft Rock
  • More Details and Credits »
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 27
  2. Negative: 0 out of 27
  1. Jun 15, 2011
    This album is a musical gumbo: a rich, surprising and ultimately satisfying stew of Simon's folk, rock and pop influences from all over the world.
  2. Apr 8, 2011
    Decades beyond the point at which most of his peers peaked, Paul Simon is still discovering new ways of writing and conveying amazing work and discovering beautifully unexpected and often spiritual language, as well as new rhythms, melodies and instrumental textures.
  3. Jun 6, 2011
    Driven by Simon's uniquely percussive acoustic guitar, and with his world music leanings embedded naturally rather than overtly, this beguiling album shows him to have lost none of his ability for finding universal truths within the guise of introspection. It's a profound statement from a master of his craft.
  4. Apr 12, 2011
    As ever, Simon's work is a strange mix of easy and uneasy listening--it's balm, but it leaves an itch. [May 2011, p.74]
  5. May 17, 2011
    So beautiful Or So What is a deeply spiritual record, its more reflective moments offset by playful fare. [may 2011, p.106]
  6. 80
    According to Paul Simon, his new album So Beautiful Or So What is the best work he has done in decades. That's a bold proclamation. Even more startling: it's not hyperbole.
  7. May 17, 2011
    A refreshingly upbeat counterpoint to 2006's opaque, Brian Eno assisted Surprise. [May 2011, p.124]

See all 27 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 10
  2. Negative: 1 out of 10
  1. Apr 12, 2011
    Paul Simon's last album "Surprise" ended up being my favorite album of that decade. It was his best work since 1990's "Rhythm Of The Saints". "So Beautiful Or So What" is as great an album as that. This makes a two album run, from 2006-2011, by Simon that is on par with his "Bookends" & "Bridge Over Troubled Water) run with Simon & Garfunkel, from 1968-1970, or his "Hearts & Bones" to "Graceland" to "Rhythm Of the Saints" solo run from 1983 to 1990. The album is as eclectic as Simon's best & most ambitious works. He & Phil Ramone have still given it a cohesive feel that is as sublime as they often are subtle. Though it comes from a different angle than the Brian Eno collaboration "Surprise" it is nearly as neo-Psychedelic again in the multi-layered depths of sonic thrills that always serve songwriting of the highest order. With these two albums I can safely say that there is simply no one, elder statesman, or newer artist, that is putting out work this challenging & yet accessible, and is as thrilling as it is nourishing. The rock critic Bill Flanagan quoted Elvis Costello, who wrote the liner notes for the album, as saying that this is the best album of the last 15 years. To that I'd add that I'm betting that this early on I've found what will most likely be my favorite album of this decade...that is unless...Paul Simon equals himself again before it's done. And having seen him in 2006, and judging by the recent live performances to promote the new album, he is also still a live force to be reckoned with. He's touring in small halls & clubs with a large band at reasonable prices. He's cut out sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy & doesn't smoke either- all in the interest of keeping himself in top condition for recording & performing. Thanks Paul. My advice to anyone out there is to get this album & give it a chance, and do whatever you have to do to catch him on this tour. It's hard to believe that he'll turn 70 this October. With his life choices, and the vitality & magic of the music he's making he seems ageless, and as one marvels at the glorious results of his efforts, you have to wonder if he might not just be able to keep it going on indefinitely. BTW- he's mentioned that he's been recording with his wife Edie Brickell recently. One hopes a full album might come to fruition there, thus breaking yet more new ground for both of them. Check out the video of their duet working with Willie Nelson backing them on "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain". Expand
  2. Dec 30, 2011
    Paul Simon's latest album is a surprise hit, no question about it. Not only is it his best creative effort in decades (if not, some of his most creative works in his vast discography), it proves that after being in the music industry for over 40 years, he still remains a highly relevant musician and song-writer in this day and age. Expand
  3. May 13, 2011
    Dealing with reflections over life, â
  4. Apr 16, 2011
    I'm blown away. I loved the last album, "Surprise", and was concerned as to how he'd possibly follow it up. I needn't have worried. This is equally as stunning in a different manner. It's an album that is as subtle as is it is sublime. I'm going to be catching him live, two nights in a row & I hope we get to hear lots of songs from this album. I doubt I'll hear anything as stunning this year, if not this decade. Expand
  5. May 19, 2011
    As I've gotten older, I've often wondered what would happen to the surviving icons of my youth, which happily coincided one of the greatest explosions of creativity in the history of music, the Dylan- and Beatles-led pop/rock revolution of the 60's. Would they become nostalgia acts, like the doo-wop package tours that hit amusement parks and beachside venues every summer? Would they becoming little more than diligent miners of their youth, continually re-working their old songs in modestly different styles: orchestral, acoustic, etc.? Some of his contemporaries have followed these paths, but if any see fit to emulate Paul Simon, now pushing 70 yet still creating music as vital and urgent as the work of his 20s and 30s, then we can still look forward to many wonderful things from his fellow aging Boomers.

    Simon's latest offering, typically long-in-the-making, does not stray far from his time-tested formula of gentle folk-rock spiced with influences from a global and ever-wider circle of musical influences. At his worst, Simon's songs can seem lazy and inconsequential, but at his best, as on every track of this new album, the music flows with effortless grace and the lyrics are full of wry wisdom. This is Simon's must sorrowful album, suffused with references to death, war, god, and the regrets, common to all human beings, that gather around personal failures. At the same time, there is a sense of peaceful (yet hard-won) acceptance of life's limitations ("It seems like our fate / To suffer and wait / For the knowledge that we seek"), while quietly savoring the sweet moments with good humor.

    In short, "So Beautiful Or So What" is the confident, contemplative work of an old master who has not become deaf to his muses, but is instead still using his art to make sense of the world and his own life. It is a great gift to anyone with ears to listen. May Simon continue to share his extraordinary musical talent and philosophical insights with us for many years to come, before he has to "stand in that line / Just to glimpse the Divine ..."
  6. Apr 13, 2011
    I can't believe my favorite album of 2011 so far was put out by a 69 year old. There's a couple songs on this album that I'm not huge on, but overall this is Simon's most solid record since Graceland. If you're a Paul Simon fan you won't be disappointed with So Beautiful or So What. If you're a fan of good music, you won't be either. Expand
  7. Jun 1, 2011
    Gotta say, I was seriously disappointed by this album. It seems Paul has become more of a poet than a singer. The only song in "So Beautiful or So What" that was even remotely catchy was "Getting Ready for Christmas." The rest just seemed like poems set to dreadfully boring musical accompaniments. I know this sounds very harsh, but this album is laughable compared to the masterpiece that was "Graceland" (my favorite record of all time.) You could actually sing along to the tracks in "Graceland". Not so in SBOSW. The only thing this album is good for is for putting you to sleep. Expand

See all 10 User Reviews

Related Articles

  1. The Best Albums of 2011

    The Best Albums of 2011 Image
    Published: December 30, 2011
    We reveal our official list of the best-reviewed albums of 2011. Plus, get links to stream virtually all of our top albums, find out which LPs our users preferred, and see which 2011 releases scored the lowest with critics.
  2. April's Best New Music - 2011

    April's Best New Music - 2011 Image
    Published: April 29, 2011
    This month's list includes albums by a 70-year-old singer-songwriter and a band that hasn't released an LP in two decades, a solo effort from an Animal Collective member, and a new post-hardcore classic.