Universal acclaim - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
Buy On
  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. 100
    The music is the mild, irregular folk-rock he's explored for decades, graced with global colors that sound as natural as that guitar.
  3. Apr 29, 2011
    So Beautiful or So What is vintage Simon, but it's also all over the map stylistically, touching on blues, African, folk, Indian and more. The music is unmistakably his, but finds the artist challenging himself melodically and with his phrasing.
  4. 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.
  5. Apr 12, 2011
    It'd be inapt to say that Simon's latest, So Beautiful Or So What, finds the 69-year-old in a more creatively fruitful place than he's been in 20 years.
  6. The worldy influence remains but never overwhelms and the album contains at least half a dozen songs that are as simple and profound as anything Simon has ever written.
  7. 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.
  8. Apr 15, 2011
    It may be less exuberant and therefore harder to love at first, but it delivers the goods just as surely. And with Paul Simon now old enough to face the ultimate questions and to do so with a stunning musical sophistication, it may just be a complete classic.
  9. Apr 12, 2011
    He's merely living in his time and reporting, returning with an album that's vivid, vibrant, and current in a way none of his peers have managed to achieve.
  10. May 19, 2011
    Abandoning "another album with a rhythmic premise" according to So Beautiful's deluxe edition DVD, Paul Simon nevertheless injects echoes of Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints in "Dazzling Blue" and "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light," respectively, feeding their author's master class mixtape of varied musical mattes (the Moby-like spiritual sampling on "Getting Ready for Christmas Day") like There Goes Rhymin' Simon and Still Crazy After All These Years.
  11. Apr 12, 2011
    For Simon, the divine isn't in the persistent hook of pop music but in the most far-reaching of global folk, where sounds, structures and techniques long ago abandoned can be employed in the service of something new and unknown.
  12. 83
    This cagey old pro makes room for stray nonsense phrases like "bop-bop-a-whoa" as well; spirited spirituality is his goal these days.
  13. Jun 9, 2011
    Simon's openness and spirit of inquiry ensure that So Beautiful Or So What is never the work of a man slouched in complacency.
  14. Mojo
    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]
  15. May 9, 2011
    There is something especially poignant and inspired about his 12th studio album.
  16. 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.
  17. Apr 19, 2011
    As it is, we have a definite return to consistency, if not form, and a Paul Simon as simultaneously hermetic and engaged as only he can be.
  18. Apr 18, 2011
    A new Paul Simon record is predictable in the most comforting of ways: gentle world music affiliations, keen narrative, righteous guitar work, effortless vibe. Though his voice retains its coy, boyish charm from 40 years ago, Simon's gift for melody has now been superseded by a knack for rich texture and complex rhythm.
  19. Uncut
    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]
  20. Apr 11, 2011
    He's not preaching on this album. He's finding solace, fleeting and fragmentary, and every springy guitar lick is its own benediction.
  21. Apr 8, 2011
    It's his best album since 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints, and it also sums up much of what makes Simon great.
  22. Apr 11, 2011
    He approaches it with a light touch and a skip in his stride. He turns the metaphysical into a series of narratives tinged not just with poignance but humor and groove.
  23. Apr 15, 2011
    So Beautiful or So What can be stodgy in its emotions and a bit too devoted to its motifs, but there's something humanizing about the album's shortcomings.
  24. Jun 14, 2011
    Sometimes Simon suffers from a sort of elder statesman's churlishness or cynicism (like a musical version of Grumpy Old Men), which is not entirely appealing, and some of the songs seem a little under-developed. There is, however, enough here to suggests that new Paul Simon albums should be bigger events.
  25. 60
    Paul Simon's ruminations here on love, age and encroaching mortality have a valedictory flavour about them.
  26. Q Magazine
    May 17, 2011
    A refreshingly upbeat counterpoint to 2006's opaque, Brian Eno assisted Surprise. [May 2011, p.124]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 33 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 33
  2. Negative: 2 out of 33
  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".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". Full Review »
  2. 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 BeautifulGotta 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. Full Review »
  3. 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 isI'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. Full Review »