This is the title track from Paul Simon's twelfth studio album. The theme of the disc is The Meaning of Life. Simon told Mojo magazine: "'So beautiful or so what' is a valid question when you're facing the enormity of the infinite. Or pure Love."
Simon had hoped he could get Bob Dylan to sing on this track. He explained what happened to Mojo magazine: "I'd written the title track 'So Beautiful Or So What,' and there were two verses that I thought would be good for Bob. It's kind of a blue song and I thought it could accommodate his voice now that it's real rough. I thought he could be the voice of wisdom. I sent a message via our mutual manager asking if Bob would like to sing on the song. The first word I got back was that he liked it and he wanted to do it, but then I never heard anything more. I had a deadline and I needed to get the album finished. I figured maybe Bob was burnt out from touring or maybe he had more dates to do. It was no big deal."