In a recent interview, Paul Simon proclaimed that he's no longer concerned with topping the pop-music charts, and that he can now go back to writing and performing the songs that are true to his nature. To that statement, we say, "FUCK YOU, PAUL SIMON." We love your pop music; it's what most of us grew up with, and just because you want to get all "artsy" and creative now, don't make the rest of us suffer.
This proclamation is new for Simon, since his 2000 song "You're the One" was specifically designed to shoot his stuff back up the pop charts. And it's not like Simon hasn't been able to combine pop music with his own motives -- he brought African rhythms to Graceland and Brazilian edge to Rhythm of the Saints, and those are two of his most popular and profitable works.
So stick with what you know, Paul, because we're not taking this lightly. And we shouldn't. Because left to your own artistic devices without any sense of audience (cough, cough...Capetown...cough, cough), you can turn out some awful stuff. And then there are songs that might be too "pop" for you now...but these five songs are but a sample of the pop-awesomeness that you'll be known for long after your sound has been silenced.
5. "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" Let's hope that Paul doesn't hate this song, because if he does, well, then he's an idiot. Come on, if your jam is on Sesame Street, it's not only pop, it's also awesome. And what's more, this is a song about good old crime and punishment; the cool thing about this 1972 hit is that the crime is kind of left for interpretation. Nobody knows what the mama saw, but we all keep listening for hidden meanings. Simon himself said he never decided specifically, but that it was probably something having to do with sex. Which really only makes this catchy song even cooler.
4. "Kodachrome" There is nothing more pop-music than a song about memories and Kodachrome friggin' cameras. This song topped 1973 singles charts all over the country and inspired people to get back in touch with their roots. It wouldn't necessarily be considered a pop song now, but in 1973, it was the epitome of popdom with its wicked-fast beat and speedy chorus. No synthesizers needed. And really, if you say you can think of a more universally true American line than "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school/It's a wonder I can think at all," then you are a liar.
3. "Graceland" Paul himself has claimed in the past that this song, rumored to be about a road trip Simon took to get over ex-wife Carrie Fisher, is the best he's ever written. And even though it didn't do that great on the pop charts, and even though there's a ton of stiff competition in Simon's oeuvre, he may be right. The song has a definite upbeat tone that distracts you from the story of the downfall of a relationship. A song about a failed marriage and a fated road trip to see the American palace of the King? We, too, have reason to believe that we will all be received in Graceland.
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2. "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" Okay, so there aren't actually fifty ways mentioned in this song. More like five. So while there might truly be fifty ways to leave your lover, this song won't enumerate them for you. No need to grab a pen and a pad to take notes or anything. Instead, just enjoy the smooth hook, the poetics of Rhymin' Simon himself, and hear why this song topped the adult-contemporary charts for two weeks back in 1976. Paul's no stranger to leaving a lover -- he's on his third marriage, though this last one has survived since 1992. He married singer Edie Brickell, by the way, which resulted in her leaving music in large part, and thus sort of makes Paul Simon the Yoko of the New Bohemians. Discuss.
1. "You Can Call Me Al" "You Can Call Me Al" has one of the most kick-ass music videos ever made. Ever. This is a fact, even if it's one that we just made up, and we dare you to refute it. Come on: Paul Simon playing the pennywhistle while Chevy Chase sort of dances in a Chevy Chase sorta way? That's just fucking genius. And so is the song, in terms of the midlife questions it asks: Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard? Where are my wife and family? What if I die here? Who'll be my role model now that my role model is gone? And if you can't relate to those sentiments, then just wait, you gigantic baby. Just wait.