If Artificial Intelligence has been the show-stopping new technology crowding the latest product reviews, then A Star Is Born soundtrack is possibly the ‘show-stopper of music recording 2019’ , exemplary of how soundtrack should sound and Grammy-worthy.
Bradley Cooper shows he can act as well as direct and sing but it is Lady Gaga’s pop bravura that showcases the fortitude of each track and her flair for songwriting, be it lyrical piano ballads or moving duets. And did we also mentioned her spectacular performance as an actor?
A Star Is Born tells a tale of talented singer, Ally, played by Lady Gaga, seemed to have given up on her career becoming a singer — albeit her powerful voice. Cooper’s choice to cast Lady Gaga (signed to Interscope Records)is as close as it gets to the real deal. In reality, Gaga’s truest talent proves an extra level of legitimacy when she plays Ally, whose solo career was just taking off just because her love interest Maine, played by Cooper, decided to give that very much needed nudge. Ally’s voice quickly seeps through Maine’s confidence in the duet performance of Shallow: a cringing moment to watch — when she walked into a live audience and sang the song she wrote. The chorus validates the strength we all know of Gaga – her powerful voice.
Cooper marks his entry in the film with Black Eyes, a smooth rock’n’roll performance by country rocker Jackson Maine (Cooper). The guitar shredding without the ragged edges is a close rendition of country music megastar Neil Young – an artist who Cooper personally admires and based upon when setting the genre and character of Jackson Maine. Unsurprising that it was Cooper who’d requested the participation of Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) whose band Promise of the Real backed Jackson Maine and currently Young in real life.
Is Jackson Maine a real person?
The soundtrack includes snatches of dialogue dotting the epilogue of realism between tracks, a much cooler version of Glen Gould’s. This serious drama surrounds a whirlwind romance, realistic depiction of addiction and depression that renders the fragility that makes us human, and the transformative power of music that are instantly classics.
As director and actor, Cooper has crafted stirring scenes of vulnerable naturalism and incredible emotion with equal persistence. And on top of it all, he can sing: convincingly on the blues-rockers track Alibi produced and written with Gaga and Nelson, Maine’s version of country ballad Maybe It’s Time, gut-stirring melancholy on the duets with Gaga.
These songs feel eerily familiar, as if they’ve been on our classic playlists, like of Rob Stewart and Sting, for years. In all respect, A Star Is Born succeeds in portraying a fictional role so closely linked to our portrayal of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. If the film are tasked to actually make us believe the fictional megastars are real, they have succeeded.
Vulnerable Versatile, yes we’d just invented the term
As if we’d just came out with a new term for a convincing uber portrayal of a real rising star , indeed Ally’s alter ego is Lady Gaga. Movie soundtracks are big business in 2018: the complexity of how each song is written and produced to merge as part of the ‘contextual’ storytelling. A ‘seamless’ merge is hard to come by and Hollywood has definitely set an ambitious task for the fourth remake of a classic film from the 30s.
The nice surprise is seeing the growing confidence in Ally. As the pair fall in love, the performance reaches a symbiosis, she needing a stage to exert her creative input, him needing her regular presence and stability. With room to grow, her songs begin to show glimpses of her new found ‘voice’ in pop at this point of the film, albeit scepticism from Jackson. Ally resisting backup dancers, arranged by Rezi (Razi Gavron) following scenes where Maine attends her group dance rehearsals, it’s worth mentioning that only the prerogative of Gaga to elevate some purposely underwritten material we gentrify as ‘minimalist R&B’: the lesser-heard side of the “real” Gaga. At the same time, it’s worth-noting a genre that cleverly amplifies the increasing disparity between the pair. The opening of Why Did You Do That?, is perhaps mean to be gauche on purpose: “Why do you come around me with an ass like that? / Why do you look so good in those jeans”, a disparaging turn in her career as a rising star to be a singer, writer, dancer and sex bomb.
The bluesy, rock, boozy and melancholic songs, with Jackson’s diminishing fame peaked at the Grammys” Ally is up for three awards that evening, while Jackson was bumped from performing the opening slot, only to be replaced by a young chap singing tribute to bygone star, Roy Orbison.
Great Music Go A Long Way
Shallow marks Gaga’s epic metamorphosis from the dingy drag bar performance of La Vie en Rose to a live stage with Cooper – a powerful sequence that gradually levels Ally’s scepticism of her talent presenting a new set of challenge in the beautiful piano ballad and duet I Don’t Know What Live Is to the full blown confidence, a Houston-inspired, gut-wrenching Is That Alright?, that beckons for ludicrous empathy a little too late: “I want you to look right in my eyes / I want you at the end of my life”.
[Warning: Spoiler Alert] The soundtrack ends with Gaga’s vulnerability in her new phase in life in I’ll Never Love Again. Lady Gaga reveals her prominence as a highly unpredictable and ever-evolving artists, eccentric adaptation of fresh materials to keep her relevance in the pop world. Her unique art and personality beg for our renewed respect for the work she has invested thus far in her career.
Ever since the launch of Live Nation’s new film and television production division – Live Nation Productions – in 2016, the production arm led by Heather Parry, has been on a sprint to tell some of the most groundbreaking, musically-driven stories from the music industry. Live Nation Productions previously released title – Gaga: Five Foot Two – has already won Best Music Documentary at the 2018 MTV & TV Movie Awards and Best Music Film at the 2018 NME Awards.