3. Paul Simon, 'So Beautiful or So What'
On his best album in more than 20 years, Simon fuses the worldhugging bounce of Graceland with the conversational elegance and attention to detail that's served him for 50 years. He's the only guy who can sing a line like "The CAT scan's eye sees what the heart's concealing," over Indian percussion, and have it roll out as smooth as doo-wop. Cracking jokes while seeking truth, Simon keeps a light touch as he wrestles with heavy subjects: See "The Afterlife," where a dude encounters bureaucracy at the Pearly Gates and unsuccessfully hits on a fellow dead person.