Paul Simon is one of the most successful American singer-songwriters of all time. As one half of the popular 1960s folk duo Simon & Garfunkel, and later as a solo artist, Simon has captivated audiences with his thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies for over 60 years.
However, despite his vast success and influence, Simon has faced significant criticism and backlash over the years. This article explores some of the common reasons why the legendary musician rubs certain people the wrong way.
What Aspects of His Music Do Critics Dislike?
Simon is often criticized for musical attributes that some find unappealing:
Voice and Singing Style
Simon has a distinctly gentle voice and restrained vocal delivery that some listeners consider boring or passionless.
He avoids showy vocal acrobatics in favor of a conversational style that puts more emphasis on his lyrics and melodies. However, this low-key approach fails to excite those looking for powerhouse singers.
Lyrical Focus is Too Introspective
The frequent introspection and self-analysis found in Simon’s songs strike some as self-indulgent navel-gazing. He often sings from an autobiographical point of view focused on his own emotional struggles and relationships rather than weightier, more external matters.
Music is “Lightweight” Compared to His Contemporaries
While Simon explores thoughtful themes and uses literary lyrics, some critics argue his overall style is lightweight fluff compared to ‘60s contemporaries like Bob Dylan. The polished studio production and accessible melodies lack the grittier edge found in folk and early rock.
He’s Been Accused of Plagiarism Multiple Times
Simon has faced several very public accusations of lifting melodies and lyrics too closely from other international artists over his long career. While unproven, these ongoing cases undermine his credibility to some degree.
This table summarizes the aspects of his music that often draw criticism:
|Bland and boring
|Too lightweight and poppy
How Has His Stage Persona and Attitude Bothered People?
Beyond just his music itself, Simon has exhibited personality traits over the decades that have irked detractors:
Aloof and “Superior” Attitude
Simon has sometimes come across in interviews as arrogant and difficult. Some perceive him as carrying an air of superiority and excessive self-regard about his creative talents and “genius” artist status.
Lack of Charisma Performing Live
While a gifted songwriter, Simon has never had much stage presence as a live performer. He fails to interact warmly with audiences or exude much passion and enthusiasm up on stage.
Reputation as a Control Freak
Simon is renowned for being very controlling over his creative output and recording sessions – often directing session musicians with an overbearing precision. His perfectionism makes collaborating with him frustrating.
Persistent Media Narrative of Being “Hard to Like”
Fairly or not, a wider narrative has taken hold portraying Simon as smug, aloof, and irritating. Critics feed on itself as writers echo and perpetuate established assumptions about Simon’s difficult personality.
Here’s a comparison of how Simon is often depicted in media coverage:
|Aloof, arrogant attitude
|Shy, humble persona
|Lack of charisma live
|Nervous performer by nature
|Meticulous creative vision
|“Hard to like”
Why Do Some Dislike His World Music Exploration?
Simon has long been fascinated by non-Western musical styles and incorporated influences ranging from reggae to Afrobeat throughout his solo career. However, this musical exoticism has also faced backlash:
Perceived as Cultural Appropriation
Critics argue that as a white American, Simon unfairly exploits and derives mainstream success from Black African and Afro-Caribbean genres without proper credit or representation.
Collaborations Viewed as Exploitative
Work with South African and Brazilian artists in particular sparked accusations that wealthy Western pop stars like Simon financially exploit less affluent collaborators from developing regions.
Brought Unwanted Mainstream Exposure to Underground Scenes
In exposing rare international sounds to huge Western audiences, Simon also unavoidably commercialized once hard-to-find musical subcultures valued for their relative obscurity. This dilution bothered longtime fans.
Music Seen as an Ego-Driven Tourist Fascination
Some portray Simon’s interest in “exotic” non-American genres as a superficial, opportunistic hobby driven by his own ego more than any profound artistic exploration or social cause.
What Role Does Generational Relevance Play?
As with many aging legacy pop/rock acts who originated in the 1960s, Paul Simon suffers diminished relevance among younger listeners lacking nostalgia:
Largely Irrelevant with Music Streaming Era Audiences
Today’s on-demand streaming model exposes listeners to endless emerging acts. So Simon’s adult-leaning folk/soft-rock style feels dated and largely ignored by youth demographics.
Boomer-Era Star Lacks Rebellious Counterculture Symbolism
Unlike Dylan or The Who, Simon was never a bold embodiment of youth protest movements. So he carries little symbolic cachet or living legend mystique for successive waves of rebellious youth generations.
Perceived as Inoffensive “Dad Rock”
For young indie/alternative fans craving edgy, subversive acts, Simon’s earnest songwriting seems tame and square—the type of non-confrontational mainstream pop their uncool Boomer parents might enjoy.
Not Enough Career Tragedy or Drama
Simon’s solid professionalism and lack of scandals or addiction battles seems boring compared to more tragic star narratives that often captivate youth interest like Kurt Cobain.
Other Factors Contributing to Simon’s Mixed Reputation
A few additional dynamics help explain why Simon prompts such divergent opinions from fans and critics alike:
Lacking a Defined Musical Identity
Simon has crossed between so many styles—folk, rock, pop, jazz, blues, gospel, reggae, New Wave over his six-decade career that he lacks a clear musical identity. This flexibility breeds dismissal from genre purists.
Perceived Peaks Early, Declines Solo
The phenomenal success Simon enjoyed early with Garfunkel meant his solo work seems underwhelming by comparison. His inability to match those heights alone unfairly colors assessments.
Catalog Too Extensive To Assess Properly
Simon has released so many albums over so many years that few critics or fans digest his immense output in full. This allows enduring misperceptions instead of an informed perspective.
Envied Scope of Success
The sheer commercial success, critical acclaim, and prestige Simon attained seems to spark reflexive resentment from those predisposed to tear down privilege. His Jewish cultural roots also unfortunately expose him to uglier envious bigotry.
Common Target of Music Critic contrarians
Simon has oddly become something of a routine reflex target for generations of cooler-than-thou music journalists and fans. Dismissing his work often seems more about reputation signaling and snobbish contrarianism than the music itself.
Conclusion: Appreciating a True American Master
The varied skepticism Paul Simon attracts often depends less on his actual creative merits than on external perceptions and projected biases. Listeners denying themselves Simon’s songs due to his supposedly uncool preppy New York Jewish intellectual image miss out on an immortal American songbook from a gifted master.
Beyond soft-rock staples like “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, an open-eared dive into Paul Simon’s lesser-known solo catalog reveals astonishing ambition. He fuses polyrhythmic African and South American grooves with insightful, literary reflections on love, spirituality, mortality, globalism and the human condition.
Few popular artists have so voraciously chased inspiration across continents while sounding so unmistakably like themselves. And even fewer have shared cross-cultural musical discoveries so generously. The global ubiquity of Simon’s iconic songs etched themselves into popular consciousness precisely because they contain glimmers of universal truths.
Do misguided perceptions unfairly color Paul Simon’s reputation among those predisposed to reject him? Certainly. But petty grudges melt away through the transcendent community of human voices joined in harmony across decades and borders every time a great song plays. All that’s left is the pure sound of a master at work.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Why People Dislike Paul Simon
What are the most common criticisms made about Simon’s music?
The main musical criticisms are that his voice and singing style are boring/bland, his lyrics are too introspective/self-focused, his style is lightweight “dad rock” rather than serious music, and he has faced accusations of plagiarism that undermine his artistic credibility.
How has Simon’s personality and attitude bothered critics over the years?
He is often depicted as arrogant, lacking charisma on stage, overbearingly controlling in the studio, and generally “hard to like” – which feeds an echo chamber of negative media narratives about him being smug or aloof.
Why has his exploration of non-Western music styles been controversial?
He has faced allegations of cultural appropriation and exploiting foreign artists. Mainstreaming obscure global genres has also diluted their relative purity and exclusivity. Some view his “world music” interest as ego-driven musical tourism.
How does Simon’s aging Boomer-era status limit his relevance with younger audiences?
Younger generations lack the nostalgia factor. His adult soft rock style sounds boring and inoffensive or “dad rock” rather than edgy and rebellious. And his career lacks the drama, tragedy, or controversy narratives that captivate youth interest.
What other issues weigh on Simon’s mixed reputation as an artist?
His musical versatility leaves him without a defined identity. His acclaimed early Simon & Garfunkel era sets an impossibly high bar. The vastness of his catalog means few digest his extensive output in full. Commercial success breeds envy. And critic contrarianism reflexively fuels a “hate” narrative.