Until a week ago, one of the year’s best songs was little more than a verse, a chorus and a perfect wail.
Yet that’s all that hungry early fans of “A Star Is Born” needed to fixate over “Shallow,” the song featured in the film’s obsessed-over first trailer. It’s “Shallow” that elevates the clip from normal blockbuster fare to a masterwork of the form, with Lady Gaga’s throaty howl giving way to its “I’m off the deep end / Watch as I dive in” chorus as the trailer cuts between punches, naked bodies, tears and guitars.
The rapturous reception of “Shallow,” from the soundtrack of the movie released Friday, was the most universally excited reaction to any Lady Gaga song in recent memory.
With Oscar buzz building around Gaga’s “A Star Is Born” performance, fans are seeing her resurgence as a universally appreciated star.
Gaga has said she couldn’t have made “A Star Is Born” without making “Joanne,” which featured country-rock tracks alongside clubby pop productions more commonly associated with her. For all of the inconsistencies of “Joanne,” it produced some of the most compelling songs of her career, particularly its twangier ballads, “Million Reasons” and its title track. It’s this version of Gaga, folksier vocals and hard “R”s, that listeners hear on “Shallow.”
“A Star Is Born” connects the dots between the album’s more stripped-down recordings and Gaga’s songs alongside Bradley Cooper’s rocker character on the movie soundtrack, which was recorded live, with writing and production help from some of Nashville’s best talents.
The soundtrack’s most intriguing entry is Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way,” produced by Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton’s go-to producer, who also helped Cooper shape his character.
Natalie Hemby, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna, three of country music’s best writers, co-wrote “Always Remember Us This Way” and sang backup on it for Gaga. Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson’s son produced or co-wrote nine songs on the soundtrack.
As Gaga’s character of Ally transitions to a poppier sound once she strikes it big, big-name pop producers including Diane Warren and Justin Tranter appear on the soundtrack to help shape her evolving musical style.
The songs seem like the culmination of a journey for Gaga, who spent the past several years seemingly trading the mass popularity of her earlier dance-pop days for a more diverse and emotionally honest body of work.
With “A Star Is Born,” Gaga gets it all: the breathless critical acclaim and public adoration surrounding a project that presents her as the multifaceted persona she’s spent years working toward.