In which I do not exactly go off the deep end
So I rewatched the latest iteration of A Star is Born, mostly because I had bought it on iTunes in order to watch it the first time and wanted to get my money’s worth. To my pleasant surprise, I took a greater liking to it the second time around. I think I had a better appreciation for Bradley Cooper’s directorial choices (I dug a lot of the camera angles and cutaways), plus a better sense of how the music fit into, and told, the story.
Moreover, I was able to identify one of my major issues with the film, which is that “Shallow”—for all its understandable appeal and real-life drama—is far from the soundtrack’s strongest moment. Here follows my attempt to put it into perspective.
“La Vie en Rose”
Okay, this is kind of cheating since it isn’t original to the film, but Gaga’s delivery is even more powerful than I remembered. She maneuvers both her voice and her body with such grace through what must be a pretty unforgiving environment, acoustically and spatially speaking. It’s a more plausible situation than “Shallow.” And she just kills it.
“Maybe It’s Time”
This is one of the few times we get to hear Cooper sing on his own and give us a sense of his character’s style of music. (The opening number, “Black Eyes,” sounds awesome, but we don’t hear a long enough portion of it to really consider it.) A simple, understated melody, with a lyric that comments nicely on the fickle nature of fame within the context of the plot.
“Always Remember Us This Way”
Possibly the musical high point of the film, or at least the first one. I’m not a big fan of the four-chords-per-measure piano song—I think it’s certainly overused in today’s pop sphere—but the songwriter(s) made it work here. A great moment for Gaga individually, a great onstage moment involving other musicians as well. The melody holds your ear.
“Look What I Found”
The energy of this song makes it a real standout. If you listen to the full version on the soundtrack album, it is informed with enough soul and stomp to be an instant pick-me-up. There’s something more than a little Carole King about it, and that ain’t a complaint.
“Why Did You Do That?”
This is my jam. If somewhere over the course of the film you’ve forgotten that Gaga’s first foray into the mainstream consisted of good old dance pop, this one brings back that feeling in spades and reminds you of her genius for the genre. I find it so much fun. And watching her character perform it on Saturday Night Live is also a lot of fun.
“I’ll Never Love Again”
The film ends on another musical high point. This ballad feels more old-fashioned, with more ties to music history, than its fellow ballads, and that only does it a service. I love the melodic arc. Within the context of the film, Gaga and Cooper are poignantly united in it without ever singing it jointly. He writes it and unveils it to her, she interprets it in front of a crowd; two different yet equally legitimate forms of ownership.
Image: hey girl I took that unfinished song you half-drunkenly sang to me less than 24 hours ago and arranged the whole thing for my band, isn’t that impressive, please date me