Hitting one's peak: The Paul Simon example

When I read in a Neil thread about artists having their peak sometime (and facing their decline afterwards) I thought that this may be true often, but not always.

A recent example is the latest album by Paul Simon, now 74 years old. Simon has refined and developed his art ever since going solo a full 46 years ago. Not everything may have been to the liking of all his fans (especially S&G fans), but looking over his work I cannot pinpoint a peak or decline in his output. Maybe the key is changing things now and then, trying out new stuff. 

Take this song for instance:

It's not catering to old fans of S&G, and it's not trying to be youthful or trendy -- yet this does not mean Mr. Simon does not seek inspiration from younger collaborators.

How do you like this song?

Our hero Neil seems to be striking out on a similar path. He may not have the specific advantage of being that interested in developing grooves, but I see no stagnation yet, either.

 

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The adventure that we meet is the one for which we are ready. (Joseph Campbell)
Original Post

That's a terrific song.

I like Wristband a lot as well, which I hear on the radio pretty frequently.

I think you're right about Paul Simon. He has been remarkably consistent, and I don't think I've ever heard anything by him that I dislike.  Although I can't say I'm a "Big Fan," and I only own a couple of his solo albums. 

I don't think Neil is stagnant at all.  His current path seems to have him intentionally trying new approaches to music, most of which seems to consciously avoid falling into the types of melodic hooks that mark most of his best-loved music.  I can see why he would want to stretch himself.  

DORTHONION,

Paul Simon may be one the best examples of longevity and success of a mainstream artist, despite or possibly thanks to, his many musical experiments and forays into uncharted territories. 

As much as I love Neil, I'm not sure that it's a fair comparison. Neil's #1 for me, but unfortunately he's never achieved the same level of Super-stardom as let's say Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel  or Sting (I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it, it just hasn't happened yet).  If we were to measure peaks based on album sales, they all hit their peak 30 years ago.

Another huge difference is the fact that Neil hasn't really strayed too far from his main path. Looking through his musical career, there's rally nothing mind-blowing or wildly contrasting from the his early days with Split Enz all the way to Dizzy Heights. 

Of course he's tried different formulas, outlets and avenues along the way; some more successful or commercially appealing to the masses than others. But as much as I love everything he's done (except for most of the Pajama Party), I think maybe Neil's one failure has been the rigidness of his songwriting/arrangements. Like many other musical geniuses, he is his own worst enemy, and as much as he's tried to do different things, he's too entrenched in his own style (which for us fans has resulted in a n extremely rewarding 40 years of music). The problem is, Neil knows this and is constantly trying to 'break the chains' by surrounding himself with people like Youth, Michael Leunig, Radiohead, Sebastian Steinberg, Wilco, Jim Scott, Dave Fridmann, Tim, Liam, Sharon and others...but he just can't get out of the 'Neil Finn' cage. I'm OK with Neil being Neil, and to me it never sounds better than when he's surrounded by his band, Crowded House.

Personally I've been a little turned off when Neil has attempted to be experimental, it just comes across like he's trying too  hard to sound like someone else (whether it's tinkering around with effects or over producing stuff) and in the end his songs don't really benefit from this process; a good example of this are the songs on Pajama Party, some of the songs on Intriguer, his contributions to The Sun Came Out and Lights of New York and Dive-bomber from Dizzy Heights.

 

 

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