So Beautiful or So What
|So Beautiful or So What|
|Studio album by Paul Simon|
|Released||April 8, 2011|
|Producer||Phil Ramone, Paul Simon|
|Paul Simon chronology|
So Beautiful or So What is the twelfth studio album by American recording artist Paul Simon, released April 8, 2011, on Hear Music. It was produced by Simon and record producer Phil Ramone. The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 68,000 copies in its first week, serving as Simon's highest debut on that chart. Upon its release, So Beautiful or So What received universal acclaim from music critics, who praised Simon's themes and songwriting.
Release and promotion
Simon released a Christmas song from the album called "Getting Ready for Christmas Day", which premiered on National Public Radio on November 16, 2010. The song samples a 1941 sermon by the Rev. J.M. Gates, also entitled "Getting Ready for Christmas Day". Simon performed the song live on The Colbert Report on December 16, 2010. (He also performed "The Afterlife," "Rewrite" and "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.) "Getting Ready" is available for free download or viewing with two videos at his official website. The first video features J. M. Gates giving the sermon and footage of his church in 2010 with its display board showing many of Simon's lyrics; the second video illustrates the song with cartoon images.
On Tuesday, April 5, 2011, So Beautiful or So What was made fully streamable on the album's website, sobeautifulorsowhat.com for the week preceding its official release. In reference to the new album, Simon says "It's the best work I've done in 20 years."
The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 68,000 copies in the United States. It is Simon's highest chart debut on the Billboard 200. As of October 2011, the album had sold 254,000 copies in the US. In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number six on the UK Albums Chart, selling 21,993 copies in its first week. The album's charting gives Paul Simon his ninth top ten solo album in the UK.
The album has also done well across Europe becoming his most successful album since The Rhythm of the Saints (1990). The album has debuted in the top ten in Croatia, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The album also reached the top ten in the Czech Republic in its third week. In Sweden the album is Simon's highest-charting solo album of his career debuting at number four and in Norway the album moved up to number two on its second week in the charts.
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The New York Times||(favorable)|
So Beautiful or So What received universal acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 85, based on 27 reviews. Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave it four-and-a-half out of five stars and praised Simon's musical "focus", calling it "an album that’s vivid, vibrant, and current in a way none of his peers have managed to achieve". Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker complimented his "spirited spirituality" and commented that "the Graceland-ic guitar figures still emphasize rhythm above all". Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote that "He’s finding solace, fleeting and fragmentary, and every springy guitar lick is its own benediction", and found it an improvement over Simon's previous album Surprise, stating "Sketches of individuals and moments are intertwined with grander pronouncements; unforced humor tempers gloomier reflections". Will Layman of PopMatters viewed that the album's varying elements "are mixed with great care and balance [...] the sounds serve the songs. And the songs themselves are united utterly, thematically obsessed with the largest and most intriguing questions that art can tackle". BBC Online's Paul Whitelaw noted Simon's "world music leanings" and "guise of introspection", calling the album "a profound statement from a master of his craft".
Pitchfork Media's Stephen M. Deusner commented that the album "can be stodgy in its emotions and a bit too devoted to its motifs", but ultimately complimented its themes of mortality and spirituality. Despite writing that "mortality figures heavily", Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot gave the album three out of four stars and stated "Fortunately, 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". Alastair McKay of Uncut noted Simon's songwriting focus and wrote that "he's telling stories, throwing narrative shapes, and twisting his songs into the service of a bigger idea. Almost every song is preoccupied somehow by God". The A.V. Club's Noel Murray gave the album an A- rating and commented that "whether he’s feeling rocky or mellow, Simon keeps toying with song-structure, unafraid to change directions if a new thought occurs". Maddy Costa of The Guardian wrote that "the densely textured musical tracks convey the diversity of sounds that Simon has absorbed through his life". Los Angeles Times writer Margaret Wappler complimented its "multiethnic landscape" and commented that the album, "steeped in Afropop and American folk forms, climbs some of the most resplendent summits of Simon’s career and ranks as his most consistent solo effort since 'Rhythm of the Saints' from 1990".
Rolling Stone writer Will Hermes complimented its "world-music fusions" and called the album "old-fashioned in its brevity (10 songs, 38 minutes) and vivid in its storytelling [...] a spiritual meditation that can't answer the big questions: Does God exist in a world of pain and inequality? Is there an afterlife?". Joe Heim of The Washington Post praised its themes of mortality, love, and God, calling it "a reminder of the power of popular song to express the universal, to shape meaning into melody and to serve up rhythm and rhyme in irresistible fashion". Jerry Shriver of USA Today gave the album three-and-a-half out of four stars and described it as "a clever and astute set of fully realized songs that explore the relationship between Man and God and the nature of love and mortality". In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau noted its music as "the mild, irregular folk-rock he's explored for decades, graced with global colors that sound as natural as that guitar", and stated "The mood is melancholy. yet suffused with gratitude—for his wife's love first of all, but even more for God's gifts, with the Divinity Himself an actor in several lyrics and close by in most of the others".
Mojo placed the album at number 15 on its list of "Top 50 albums of 2011," Uncut placed the album at number 29, while Rolling Stone placed the album as the number 3 album of the year on its list of "50 Best Albums of 2011."
All songs written by Paul Simon.
- "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" – 4:06
- "The Afterlife" – 3:40
- "Dazzling Blue" – 4:32
- "Rewrite" – 3:49
- "Love and Hard Times" – 4:09
- "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" – 4:02
- "Amulet" – 1:36
- "Questions for the Angels" – 3:49
- "Love and Blessings" – 4:18
- "So Beautiful or So What" – 4:07
- "So Beautiful or So What (Live Rehearsal Version)" – 4:10 [Download-only bonus track available on vinyl edition]
- Deluxe Edition DVD
- "The Making of So Beautiful or So What"
- "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" (Music Video)
- "So Beautiful or So What" (Live Recording)
- "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" contains excerpts from the 1941 sermon of the same name by Reverend J. M. Gates with congregation.
- "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" contains excerpts from "Train Whistle Blues".
- "Love and Blessings" contains excerpts from "Golden Gate Gospel Train", recorded by The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet in 1938.
|Australia||April 8, 2011|
|Denmark||April 11, 2011|
|Italy||April 12, 2011|
|Japan||April 20, 2011|
|Ireland||June 10, 2011|
|United Kingdom||June 13, 2011|
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- Getting Ready For Christmas Day
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- Tucker, Ken (April 13, 2011). So Beautiful or So What Review – Paul Simon | Music|EW.com|Music|EW.com. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2011-04-15.
- Costa, Maddy (June 9, 2011). Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What – review | Music|The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2011-06-11.
- Wappler, Margaret (April 11, 2011). Album review: Paul Simon's 'So Beautiful or So What' | Pop & Hiss|Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2011-04-15.
- Pareles, Jon (April 11, 2011). New CDs From Paul Simon and Panda Bear – Review – NYTimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2011-04-15.
- Deusner, Stephen M. (April 15, 2011). Pitchfork: Album Reviews: Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved on 2011-04-15.
- Hermes, Will (April 5, 2011). So Beautiful or So What by Paul Simon | Rolling Stone Music|Music Reviews. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2011-04-15.
- McKay, Alastair (May 2011). "Album Review: Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What – Review". Uncut (IPC Media) (168): 74. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
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- Kot, Greg (April 10, 2011). Turn It Up: Album review: Paul Simon, 'So Beautiful or So What'. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on 2011-04-15.
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- So Beautiful or So What digital booklet
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- [dead link]
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