Paul Simon Janet Maslin - Essay

Janet Maslin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Paul Simon and Randy Newman are virtually alone among singer/songwriters in their capacity for accompanying highly polished lyrics with music of comparable sophistication. Simon has arrived at this balance by gradually simplifying his lyrics while turning out more and more complex (though never ostentatiously so) melodies, rhymes and internal contradictions. More so than any of his competitors, Simon has learned to use his music as an ironic commentary on lyrics that are sometimes even more elusive than Newman's. (pp. 316, 318)

"Overs" injected Simon and Garfunkel's 1968 Bookends album with an unexpected bitterness, an honesty of the sort that Simon's pretensions had not previously permitted…. [On] Paul Simon, his first solo album, the cute, deliberately obscure "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" is no match for "Mother and Child Reunion," an equally vague but more likable song that makes no attempt to play hide-and-seek. Simon's best work—"American Tune," "Something So Right," culminating in 1975's Still Crazy after All These Years—is his most likably blunt, even when its subject is his stubborn elusiveness. One extraordinarily deft thing about this last album is its use of delicate accents—a change of tense in "I Do It for Your Love," a martial drum in "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"—to flesh out ideas Simon's natural reticence prevents him from articulating in their entirety. (p. 318)

Janet Maslin, "Singer/Songwriters," in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, edited by Jim Miller (copyright © 1976 by Rolling Stone Press; reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.), Random House, 1976, pp. 316-19.∗