You've heard it in the trailer at least a thousand times. Lady Gaga, as her character Ally, sings, "I'm off the deep end/watch as I dive in." On Thursday, "Shallow," the lead single from A Star Is Born finally dropped, and you can now stream the duet between Gaga and Bradley Cooper's Jackson Maine endlessly. But what do we actually know about the song and the soundtrack that the world can't wait to listen to?
The soundtrack, which is available to pre-order now and will drop on October 5 in step with the film's release, is a whopping 34 tracks long. Many of those are interludes from the film, but 19 of the tracks are original songs, which tells us this movie is not going to skimp on the music. It includes the Gaga performance of Edith Piaf's classic "La Vie En Rose," which is her star turn moment when Cooper's character discovers her in a cabaret. The rest is a slew of new songs, many of which feature songwriting credits by country music stars and well-known Nashville songwriters that indicate there's going to be at least a hint of that country-style storytelling happening.
The soundtrack appears to go in story order based on the film's plot, which gives us some hints about what to expect in A Star Is Born. The first handful of songs, other than "La Vie En Rose," are all Cooper performances, and those are co-writes with Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson — and Lukas is present all over the album as a writer) and Jason Isbell. The first Cooper and Gaga duet is a song called "Alibi," with Nelson serving as the only co-writer and co-producer with the two stars.
"Shallow," which pops up as the soundtrack's 12th track, has an interesting songwriter pedigree. It is the most grounded in the world of pop on the soundtrack, based on who worked on it. It was written by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson (who also co-wrote and produced much of Joanne), Anthony Rossomando (formerly a live player in Brit rock band the Klaxons and Dirty Pretty Things), and Andrew Wyatt (whose name you may recognise better as vocalist/producer Miike Snow). There's no doubt "Shallow" was stacked to be the film's lead single and painted with a radio-friendly brush by that team of hitmakers. You'll definitely be hearing it at the 2019 Academy Awards. But, looking at the rest of the album, it may be the most mainstream song you'll hear in A Star Is Born.
Gaga's songs have a slew of songwriters and producers on them that span genres, and some of them are people I would have never imagined her working with. "Diggin' My Grave" is a track written by Paul Kennerley, a British dude whose heyday was in the '80s and '90s writing songs performed by The Judds, Trisha Yearwood, and Patty Loveless. He's also an ex-husband of the iconic Emmylou Harris, who produced two of her '80s albums along with some song co-writes.
That's not the only nitty gritty country track Gaga dips her toe into. "Always Remember Us This Way" is produced by Dave Cobb, the guy who gets all the credit for bringing real country back to country music thanks to his work with the Zac Brown Band, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Brandi Carlile. The track was co-written by Lori McKenna (Little Big Town's "Girl Crush"), Natalie Hemby (Miranda Lambert's "Keeper of the Flame"), and Hillary Lindsey (too many No. 1 hits by Carrie Underwood to even name) along with Gaga — it's a murder's row of the most outstanding hit song writers for women in Nashville. It would be shocking if that track isn't serviced to country radio as a crossover single.
The back half of the album is loaded with Gaga singles crafted with songwriters and producers she collaborated with on Artpop and Born This Way; they clearly mark a shift for her character away from the "authentic" roots music that Cooper's character performs and a move towards a different kind of art and stardom. Lukas Nelson and Aaron Raitiere (Ashley Monroe, Anderson East) stay on as co-writers for a few of those tracks, possibly injecting some grittiness and a hint of country, but by the end of the album she's going full Gaga, into a glistening world removed from the kind of music Cooper writes. It's a throwing off of the chains, a student surpassing the teacher — and undoubtedly a part of the unraveling of their relationship.
The final song on the soundtrack makes me want to cry just reading the title: "I'll Never Love Again." It gets a film edit and extended version treatment, with Hemby, Lindsey, and Raitiere returning to co-write it with Texan Benjamin Rice (Britney Spears, Selena Gomez) producing. It hints that the story ends with Gaga returning to some stripped down roots, topped with the sheen of pop music, to explore her grief after the inevitable demise of Cooper's character.
Naturally, the film's story arc is tied to the music, which the soundtrack seems to make as central a character as Gaga and Cooper. But what we didn't know was how grounded the songwriting for the movie would be in modern country music that is slightly left of centre.