Album: You’re the One
Artist: Paul Simon
Reason Featured: #8 Album for Rolling Stone’s Top Ten Albums of 2000, nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy
My Favorite Songs: That’s Where I Belong, Hurricane Eye
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (4/5)
My Grade: 64%
Well, if Ecstasy by Lou Reed is an example of what to do on a late period record, You’re the One is an example of the opposite. I’ll come right out and say it: I like Paul Simon more than Lou Reed. I’ve returned to Graceland way more often than I’ve vacationed in Reed’s Berlin and, as much as I love The Velvets, I have more of a predilection for Simon & Garfunkel when it comes to the late sixties. So there you go: enjoy this look at my street cred bleeding out on the pavement. With all that said, what the hell is this?
Musically and lyrically, this sounds like Simon spoofing himself. His careful and playful turns of phrase are rendered careless and stiff here. As far as the music goes, it sounds like a magician who doesn’t care if you see just how he pulls the rabbit out of his empty hat anymore. For someone who did such a great job giving a young guy like me an idea of the pleasures and pains of being middle-aged on Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints, how does the same mind conjure up a meaningless ode like “Old” as his take on aging into his twilight years? He wrote “The Boxer” and made the music of the southern hemisphere as popular as Duran Duran and Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. in the eighties and all he can come up with on here is “God is old / We’re not old / God is old / He made the mold”?
Perhaps the most saddening part is that talent as immeasurable as Simon’s isn’t really capable of making a bad record. There are still some good songs here and only a few cringers, usually single lines or boring chord progressions as opposed to entire tracks. When the lyrics come off sloppy, especially after we’ve seen what he can do poetically over all these years, it feels more like laziness than lack of prowess. Mediocre albums like this by living legends at least serve the purpose of getting you to detox with the verifiable classics the aforementioned legends’ released earlier in their careers. I can’t help myself: you may be the one, but this one isn’t.