So Beautiful or So What

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So Beautiful or So What
Studio album by Paul Simon
Released April 8, 2011
Recorded 2010–11[1]
Genre Folk rock[2]
Length 38:15
Label Hear Music
Producer Phil Ramone, Paul Simon
Paul Simon chronology
Surprise
(2006)
So Beautiful or So What
(2011)

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[edit]

Simon released a Christmas song from the album called "Getting Ready for Christmas Day", which premiered on National Public Radio on November 16, 2010.[3] The song samples a 1941 sermon by the Rev. J.M. Gates, also entitled "Getting Ready for Christmas Day".[4] Simon performed the song live on The Colbert Report on December 16, 2010.[5] (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.[6] In reference to the new album, Simon says "It's the best work I've done in 20 years."[7]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 68,000 copies in the United States.[8] It is Simon's highest chart debut on the Billboard 200.[8] As of October 2011, the album had sold 254,000 copies in the US.[1] 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.[9]

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.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] The album also reached the top ten in the Czech Republic in its third week.[17] In Sweden the album is Simon's highest-charting solo album of his career debuting at number four[15] and in Norway the album moved up to number two on its second week in the charts.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[18]
The A.V. Club A–[19]
Robert Christgau A[2]
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars[20]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[21]
The Independent 3/5 stars[22]
The Observer 4/5 stars[23]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[24]
The Times 4/5 stars[25]
Uncut 4/5 stars[26]

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.[27] Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised Simon's musical "focus" and called it "an album that’s vivid, vibrant, and current in a way none of his peers have managed to achieve".[18] 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".[28] Philip Cummins of State magazine found Simon's observations vividly detailed and enduring, and hailed So Beautiful or So What as "his most vital, most complete album in 25 years."[29] Jon Pareles, writing in The New York Times, said that "sketches of individuals and moments are intertwined with grander pronouncements; unforced humor tempers gloomier reflections".[30] Will Hodgkinson of The Times said that Simon's meditations on the afterlife are informed by both youthful enthusiasm and the wisdom of old age.[25]

In his review for MSN Music, Robert Christgau found Simon's usual folk rock "graced with global colors that sound as natural" as his guitar and said that his writing is imbued with gratitude for his wife's love and God, although he disagreed with Simon's view of God's benevolent nature.[2] In a mixed review, Andy Gill of The Independent said that the music is Simon's usual cross-genre style, but found his ruminations on love, age, and mortality to be trivial.[22] Pitchfork Media's Stephen M. Deusner felt that the album "can be stodgy in its emotions and a bit too devoted to its motifs".[31]

Accolades[edit]

Mojo placed the album at number 15 on its list of "Top 50 albums of 2011,"[32] Uncut placed the album at number 29,[33] while Rolling Stone placed the album as the number 3 album of the year on its list of "50 Best Albums of 2011."[34] In the album's liner notes, a brief synopsis of the album by Elvis Costello says that it "deserves to be recognized as among Paul Simon's finest achievements."[35]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Paul Simon.

  1. "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" – 4:06
  2. "The Afterlife" – 3:40
  3. "Dazzling Blue" – 4:32
  4. "Rewrite" – 3:49
  5. "Love and Hard Times" – 4:09
  6. "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" – 4:02
  7. "Amulet" – 1:36
  8. "Questions for the Angels" – 3:49
  9. "Love & Blessings" – 4:18
  10. "So Beautiful or So What" – 4:07
  11. "So Beautiful or So What (Live Rehearsal Version)" – 4:10 [Download-only bonus track available on vinyl edition]
Deluxe Edition DVD
  1. "The Making of So Beautiful or So What"
  2. "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" (Music Video)
  3. "So Beautiful or So What" (Live Recording)
Notes
  • "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.

Personnel[edit]

Credits for So Beautiful or So What adapted from Allmusic.[36]

Charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date
Australia[52] April 8, 2011
Germany[53]
Netherlands[54]
Denmark[55] April 11, 2011
France[56]
Italy[57] April 12, 2011
United States[58]
Japan[59] April 20, 2011
Ireland[60] June 10, 2011
United Kingdom[61] June 13, 2011

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert (April 12, 2011). Paul Simon/TV on the Radio. MSN Music. Archived from the original on 2011-04-15.
  3. ^ Boilen, Bob (November 16, 2010). "Premiere: New Music From Paul Simon : All Songs Considered Blog". NPR. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  4. ^ "Includes complete recording of "Getting Ready for Christmas Day"". Oldweirdamerica.wordpress.com. November 6, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  5. ^ "Live performance by Paul Simon on The Colbert Report". Colbertnation.com. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  6. ^ Getting Ready For Christmas Day
  7. ^ "Paul Simon May Record with Bob Dylan, Taking Catalog Back to Sony". Showbiz411. March 31, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  8. ^ a b Caulfield, Keith (April 20, 2011). Foo Fighters Earn First No. 1 Album with 'Wasting Light' | Billboard.com. Billboard. Retrieved on 2011-04-21.
  9. ^ Jones, Alan (June 19, 2011). "Take That progress back to the top of album charts". Music Week. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b http://www.hdu-toplista.com/index.php?what=albumi&w=details&id=1444
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  14. ^ a b c "norwegiancharts.com – Paul Simon – So Beautiful Or So What". VG-lista. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  15. ^ a b c Swedish Albums Chart Sverigetopplistan
  16. ^ a b "Archive Chart". UK Albums Chart. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  17. ^ a b "ČNS IFPI". Hitparáda – TOP50 Prodejní (in Czech). IFPI Czech Republic. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
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  19. ^ Murray, Noel (April 12, 2011). Paul Simon: So Beautiful Or So What | Music|Music Review|The A.V. Club. The A.V. Club. Retrieved on 2011-04-15.
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  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Cummins, Philip (April 20, 2011). "Paul Simon – So Beautiful Or So What". State. Retrieved July 11, 2013. 
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External links[edit]