You know what else was good this year? Paul Simon’s new album. Simon has never been bad, but sometimes he’s been dull. His new one is quite lovely, melodic, infused with his beloved African rhythms, and thoughtful as ever. As he always has, he writes about love, regrets and getting old. As a generation of baby boom era rock stars approaches geriatric age, we see that rock has evolved beyond the angst of the young and the pretending-to-be-young and can support the maturity of middle age just as well. For Simon, a focus on the unfolding of life stages is nothing new. He has always been concerned with life choices and the passage of time. Though I can’t pretend to know the singer’s mind, I’d like to think his lifelong ruefulness is the product of a self-aware nebbish. Simon may be one of the most acclaimed, best-selling and wealthiest songwriters, but he’s not and never has been a proper rock star. No matter how many of his records sell, or how high his singles chart, he would never be a golden god. He didn’t have the looks for it, for one thing, but that doesn’t matter – neither did Gene Simmons have any looks. Simon just doesn’t have the personality for debauchery and self-mythologizing. Whatever misadventures he may or may not have had, no one wants to hear about them. He’s gone through his successful career with the persona of a mild-mannered nerd. Fame didn’t transform Paul Simon into the cool guy. Maybe that’s why he’s never lost his touch of writing with empathy about the ordinary lives of ordinary people.