03. "Graceland" by Paul Simon
The mid-to-late 80's weren't the best time for musical experimentation. New Wave had passed its prime, rock 'n' roll had given way to glam rock and hair metal, and not nearly enough of it was legitimately good, much less great. Rap was in its troubled childhood as a viable genre, and grunge was still a good half a decade away. When artists tried to recapture something classic it turned into the detestable genre known as Adult Contemporary. It just wasn't a great time for mainstream music, in pretty much every genre.
Paul Simon made his name in the 60's as one half of the multi-faceted singer/songwriter duo Simon and Garfunkel. He graduated to a successful solo career in the 70's with well-crafted, memorable, and heartfelt songs like "Kodachrome", "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", and "American Tune". Popularity began to wane for Simon in the 80's, and his album Hearts and Bones had only mediocre success.
He hit artistic and inspirational rock bottom. He resigned himself to his fate as a fading star, and then the following happened (taken from Wikipedia):
While driving his car in late 1984 in this state of frustration, Simon listened to a cassette of the Boyoyo Boys' instrumental "Gumboots: Accordion Jive Volume II". Interested by the unusual sound, he wrote lyrics to the number which he sang over a re-recording of the song. It was the first composition of a new musical project that became the celebrated album Graceland
Paul Simon essentially took the sort of risk every artist wants to take, when they feel they have nothing to lose. Only for him, it paid off. It paid off with one of the most consistently lauded albums of the last 30 years.
( Give her the wings to fly through harmony, she won't bother you no more... )
HINT FOR PART FOUR: The first female artist on the list, and also the first Japanese album on the list. It's not who you think.