Paul Simon’s Graceland

With bands like Vampire Weekend and others putting out albums with a heavy afro-pop influence, people are getting excited about a style that hasn’t been in the spotlight of American music for a bit of time. But it is important to realize that Ezra Koenig and company were not trying something unheard of when they released their eponymous debut in 2008. Upon the album’s release (as is this case when any westerner infuses afro-pop into their music) comparisons were drawn to Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland.
Simon’s album is remembered for bringing a style of music over seas and handing it to American audiences. Graceland came at somewhat of a low-point in Simon’s career and turned into his highest charting album in a decade. But more importantly, the album helped showcase the music of South Africa. Mostly local musicians provided the music on Graceland while it was being recorded in South Africa.
It is this authenticity about the album which ultimately elevates it above others. But even beyond the influence on, as well as of the album, the songs it contains are among the finest Simon has written over the course his entire career. The titular second track, “Graceland,” (written about visiting the Tennessee home of Elvis Presley) is regarded by Simon as the best song he has ever written.
This album has had an irrefutable influence on popular music in the decades since its release. Give the album a listen and try to imagine what any music that came after would be like had this album never been released. Just listen to the track “Crazy Love, Vol II” and realize the aforementioned Vampire Weekend, as well as others, would obviously be a very different band had it not been for Graceland.

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