So, you saw A Star Is Born starring Stefani Joanne Angelina I’m An Italian Girl From New York Germanotta and Bradley There Can Be 100 People In The Room and 99 Don’t Believe In You, You Just Need One to Believe In You Cooper, and you really liked it like I did.
Or, maybe you didn’t even like it, but you liked some of the songs you heard.
Or maybe you haven’t even seen it yet, but you want to hear the music and ruin it. That’s fine too, I guess. It’s your life. I mean, I know you kind of wanted to wait to go see it with that guy from Scruff you’ve been talking to for the past two days, but if he’s already ghosting you and ignoring your texts while updating his Instagram Story, then just go fucking see it yourself. He’s not worth it. Men are trash!
In any case, whoever you are, you’re probably wondering how to navigate this 34-track collection: I’m here for you.
A Star Is Born is a powerful and poignant meditation on the power of music, the pursuit of one’s passion, the poison of fame and the eternal, enduring spirit of love. It’s also got some flaming hot pop bops. And who doesn’t love bops? Am I right, ladies?
Ally’s story arc finds her pivoting from singer-songwriter hopeful moonlighting as a dingy drag bar darling (like, say, Stefani Germanotta) to a gee-tar strummin’, dirt-under-my-nails, gritty “America, fuck yeah!” rock ‘n’ roll festival phenom (like XOXO, Joanne) to a sleek, radio-friendly electro-pop diva for consumption by the masses (like, say, Fame-era Gaga).
We’re (maybe?) supposed to scoff at Ally’s Interscope Records-curated overnight transformation into a pop superstar after months of being a Serious Artisté on the road with Jackson Maine, complete with a Bonnie McKee dye job and a slew of back-up dancers. (AND A GRAMMY AWARD, PRESENTED BY A BALD HALSEY PLAYING THE ROLE OF HALSEY, WHICH I WILL NEVER GET OVER.)
But of course, for many of us, that basic pop girl makeover is sort of our lifeblood. All we know is a road paved by disco sticks and bad wigs and alien Alexander McQueen heels, and hey: ain’t you that ra-ra-ra bitch?
Sure, her much-publicized duet with Bradley Cooper, “Shallow,” is a soaring, stadium-filling anthem – Haa-aaAAA-AHHHHHH!!!!!!!! – and “I’ll Never Love Again,” her Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You”-biting finale is a show-stopping moment of bringing-down-the-house balladry – but we, the Lowest Common Denominator-seeking, catchy pop-chasing community need our fix, too.
Luckily, she supplies.
“Heal Me,” a Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels co-penned production, is where Ally hops on the highway unicorn on the road to love, and things get interesting for the pop nerds in the bunch. She veers into sexy, featherlight electro-R&B territory, recalling the soft sensuality of Jessie Ware. And that spoken word bridge? Like buttah! It’s a gorgeous production – much airier, breathier and freer than anything Gaga’s done in recent memory – and would certainly be a chic direction for Gaga to head in post-Joanne. (She won’t – it’ll be Cheek II Cheek: It Gets Cheekier. But anyway.)
She fully assumes the pop star position with her mindless Saturday Night Live slammer, “Why Did You Do That?” – co-penned by the legendary Diane Warren, naturally – which dares us to laugh with its intentionally over-the-top, dumb-as-hell lyricism. (“Why’d you come around me with an ass like that?“)
But wait: is it actually meant to mock Fame-era Gaga? Because Gaga has songs with half of these lyrics. (“Got my ass squeezed by Sexy Cupid,” anyone?) Hopefully it’s only a playful jab, and not Gaga genuinely distancing herself from her early work. We don’t need a Mandy Moore-disavowing-her-discography situation. That obnoxiously repetitive chorus smacks, as “funny” as it may be. Deal with it, Gaga: you’re still a damn good pop star, even when you’re not trying to be.
The finger-snapping “Hair Body Face” amps up the camp even more: it’s about commanding the highly coveted triple threat of (A) hair, (B) body and (C) face. It could also very well double as a fierce RuGirl single – and I say that as an entirely earnest compliment. The earliest of Gaga stans will agree: that’s money, honey.
For the meatier moments, there’s Mademoiselle Gaga’s rendition of “La Vie En Rose” – a must for the vocal size queens out there. It’s also a requisite cover for any Gay Icon: Grace Jones has done it. Donna Summer‘s done it. Madonna‘s done it. Gaga had to do it eventually. (She’s done it before live on tour, anyway!)
“Always Remember Us This Way,” similarly, supplies one of the bigger vocal performances on the soundtrack. It’s a gorgeous piano-rock ballad, specifically for those “You & I” stans. It’s almost a little Natalie Merchant in moments too, like Lillith Fair-meets-Coachella. “Look What I Found,” on the other hand, supplies a horn-y blast of ’60s Motown-ish energy, bordering on Amy Winehouse territory.
“Is That Alright?” might be the actual best, most tearjerk-iest track of the bunch that hasn’t been totally overexposed to audiences from the trailers and the memes and whatnot. It’s stunning, in an Adele power ballad way. It’s…maybe one of her best ballads? It must be? The sheer number of first dances Gaga’s about to soundtrack…she knew exactly what she was doing with this soon-to-be wedding anthem.
“Shallow” aside, there are other twangy duets for the Little Monsters and Mini Coopers, including “Music To My Eyes” and “Diggin’ My Grave,” for the more Joanne-leaning crowd. If that makes you say yee-haw, by all means, dive right in.
The soundtrack’s got something for just about everyone, truly: you want to put on your pink Joanne hat and lip sync for your life to a stadium-sized ballad? You GAH-AAAAAAHHHH-AHHT it. You want to stare pensively out of a window on a rainy taxi ride home until the driver is like “Uh, are you alright?” and you turn to him and whimper: “No. Is that alright?” Gaga will supply the needed drama. You want to get dumb, get #lit, and flip your goddamn hair? Flip it, then your body, then your face. You want a hot bod-eh? You better work, bitch – but that’s another story.
The point is: Gaga’s giving us Gaga at her most #vers with all these different sounds and styles on one record, so meet your needs and choose your journey accordingly. Regardless of genre, there’s plenty of goodness to offer. (Oh, except the dialogue. Did I mention half of this album is dialogue? Skip that. Who has the time in 2018?)
Oh, and one more thing. Reader?
I just wanted to take another look at you.
A Star Is Born – The Soundtrack was released on October 5. (iTunes)
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