If you've been at a karaoke bar in the last two years, you've probably heard -- at least -- one duo shattering their vocal cords along to "Shallow" by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. The song, off the soundtrack from 2018's A Star is Born was the film's real breakout star. Every new version of A Star is Born adds something unique and timely to the melodrama and in Cooper's version, that's "Shallow." The country-rock-folk-pop duet appeals to just about everyone.
Every Version of 'A Star is Born'
The original A Star Is Born premiered in 1937 and critiqued the era's Hollywood studio system which regularly transformed native young talents into big names with fake backstories. The medium was cinema. The 1954 version, starring Judy Garland, also follows the story of an actress but with a twist: a musical actress. Utilizing Garland's vocal talents, this film was a diegetic musical meaning the songs occur, out loud, within the context of the story. In this framework, A Star Is Born adhered to that decade's showy expectations while striking a more serious tone in the non-musical scenes. Similarly, the 1976 remake was also a diegetic musical... with an even larger twist! Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson starred as rock stars. So '70s.
And so, when Bradley Cooper revived the franchise in 2018 as his directorial debut, a large question loomed: what is the music of our current era? Thanks to the internet, our tastes have both fractured and expanded at an unprecedented rate. No one listens to the same things anymore! But, with the exception of hip-hop, Cooper managed to create a cross-genre story populated with cross-genre bangers. By employing Lady Gaga as his overpowering co-star, audiences are invited to understand the legend of A Star is Born as imbued with Gaga's unique celebrity enigma. Watching the shape-shifting superstar shift, for once, into a normal girl only heightens the film's anticipation.
A bursting moment of reckoning comes early on in the film, through the form of an original song: "Shallow."
Sticking within his relative range as the ailing country singer Jackson Mayne, Cooper is perfectly suited for Gaga's Ally: an eclectic talent who can rise to any arrangement. The ultimate romantic melange occurs in "Shallow," a song written by Ally's character within the world of the film. We hear her solo teaser, during a previous parking lot scene, but the love song comes alive on stage when Ally and Jackson perform together for the first time. That stirring Los Angeles concert scene also doubles as the "Shallow" music video. Watch it above.
Tell me something, boy /
Aren't you tired tryin' to fill that void? /
Or do you need more? /
Ain't it hard keepin' it so hardcore? /
-- from "Shallow"
Regardless of who enjoyed, or even watched A Star is Born, people know "Shallow." The song was everywhere following the film's release in late 2018 and the appeal was both popular and critical.
Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta), Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando, and Mark Ronson collaborated as songwriters on the power ballad. Those are great contemporary pop minds, but the highly acoustic sound of "Shallow" evokes a more countrified tone. That's especially helped by Cooper's gravelly delivery. The sound of love song evokes the spirit of the lyrics, balancing casual lines with grand crescendos: "Tell me girl, are you happy in this modern world..." "Shallow" is committed to a non-specific timelessness, and in that sense, is truly the song of our era. Words like "I'm off the deep end, watch as I dive in..." can absolutely pertain to a relationship, like Ally and Jackson's, but also foreshadow something greater. In the case of the film, Ally's burgeoning career as a pop sensation.
That larger-than-life bridge that defines "Shallow" evokes, literally, the wonder and anxiety of entering a new phase of life. It's primal. (It's also damn fun to sing out loud.) In Billboard, "Shallow" ranks as the sixth-best bridge of all time. Their staff writes: "The Oscar and Grammy winner starts off as a sweet, yet somber back and forth between a boy and a girl. But the guttural bridge launches "Shallow" off the deep end and into iconic territory. In the film, it's the precise moment that Ally's star is born. In the real world, it further cemented Gaga's legacy."
"Shallow" won Best Original Song at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. It also earned four Grammy Award nominations: Record of the Year and Song of the Year with wins for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media. Today, it's the 24th most streamed song on Spotify and remains one of the best-selling singles of all time.