Although this technically is not what Rush Brush Up is about, we are going to let it slide because before I saw this movie I was going through a terrible period of writer’s block, and if Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have to be the ones to get me out of it, so be it!
I’ll admit, I was initially skeptical of all of the A Star Is Born hype, but after I was privileged enough to see Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s lovechild exactly seven days ago, I understood. Never in my life have I paid one minute’s attention to Bradley Cooper, but now… well now, Jackso— I mean, Bradley, you have my attention.
Directed by Cooper himself, this remake of the drama-musical-tragedy stars Cooper and Lady Gaga, as weathered rock star Jackson Maine and aspiring singer Ally Campagna, respectively. As Ally’s career begins to heat up after meeting and falling in love with Jackson, Jackson’s own career begins to spiral downward as he battles with addiction.
I’ve spent the last week non-stop obsessing over the soundtrack, cast, and whatever behind the scenes tidbits I could get my hands on. Such as: Cooper and Gaga are certainly in love, so I can stop depression crying for Ally and Jackson. When Spotify’s “End of the Year” playlist for my top songs listened to comes out, I will wear my top two songs with pride— they will surely be “Shallow” and “Shallow (Radio-Edit)”. Just kidding, the radio edit is certified trash! But to put my obsession to good(ish) use, I have decided to author the ~definitive~ ranking for A Star Is Born’s songs, from Simply OK to the Absolute Best (because Lady Gaga does not make mistakes). And as ASIB would say, if you’re going to love something, love it fully!
18. Out of Time
Well, this one has literally no lyrics. Although I am not one to sneer at Jackson and his guitar, I did not pay $11.50 to see Bradley Cooper learn how to play instruments! No offense Bradley, but if I paid for this soundtrack I’d be borderline pissed to just get this instrumental. Of course, nothing against you Jackson! But it also says a lot about the quality of this soundtrack if the worst ranked song is just one without any words.
Memorable Lyric: n/a
17. Too Far Gone
I’m confident that I don’t really need to explain why this depressing last-ditch Jackson Maine song is ranked so far down, considering the next song is “I’ll Never Love Again”.
Memorable Lyric: There’s only about three lines in this “song” so, no.
16. La Vie En Rose
This song is only ranked so low because it’s 1. In French and 2. It’s not an original song. Gaga does a lovely job with it, and her performing this song was actually what made Cooper determined to cast her in the first place! So, thank you “La Vie En Rose”! In the film, this one is of even more importance because it is what makes Jackson fall in love with Ally; that’s right, just by hearing her sing. Man do I wish I could sing.
Memorable Lyric: Well, it’s all in French. So. Not this one either.
15. Before I Cry
This one follows all of the “Scene 98” drama, and although it is not terrible by any means (none of these are), Gaga’s voice is overwhelmed by a strange techno-beat that does not quite fit with the mood or lyrics. Even weirder, the last minute of the song does not seem to fit with the first three, even though it is beautiful. I could’ve used this song myself after finishing the movie and attempting not to cry.
Memorable Lyric: “Am I just repeating myself?/ Say something loving to me/ before I crumble” —Me, after finishing this movie.
14. Diggin’ My Grave
One of a few early Jally country duets, “Diggin’ My Grave” belongs near the bottom of this list because it simply does not make sense for the movie. Where did this implication that someone in the relationship is cheating come from? Personally, I’m very confused, especially because it comes well before “Scene 98″… and we know how bad things get after that. Overall a decent song, although there’s only so much country twangs a girl can take.
Memorable Lyric: “You’ll be all dressed up in black/Six feet under, baby, that’s where I’ll be/By the time that you’re done with me”
13. Black Eyes
If I had to pick a song that would sum up the entirety of Jackson Maine’s discography (before he met Ally) it would be this rocker track. It’s the song in which we first meet Jackson, as he’s being adored by hundreds of screaming fans. Note: we know Jack in fact has the bluest eyes to ever exist in history, so does this count as him lying??? Without an alibi?? Let me know.
Memorable Lyric: “Black eyes open wide/It’s time to testify”
12. Heal Me
This electronic-pop mix of a track sees Ally pleading for her man to “treat [her] like [his] patient”… a catchy song but alas, not the greatest meaning, and nothing special.
Memorable Lyric: “God knows nothing else is gonna heal/heal me”
Another classic Jackson Maine solo track! If you listen to the way Cooper sings the word “alibi” I feel like you’ll get it. We also learn in this one that Jack doesn’t lie without an alibi! A win-win!
Memorable Lyric: “I ain’t lying/I don’t lie/without an alibi”
10. Music to My Eyes
Another twangy country effort sung by both Cooper and Gaga that strikes a few chords close to my heart. For someone so skeptical of the majority of country music, the fact that it ranks this high is a miracle. However, I can appreciate good songwriting and this surely is a fantastic use of words. It doesn’t hurt that it works perfectly for Jackson and Ally lovers, as is explained in 7’s “Look What I Found”, their love is truly centered around their connection through music.
Memorable lyric: “You’re music to my eyes/I had to listen just to find you”
9. Why Did You Do That?
At first, I considered myself sort-of enjoying this song as a sign of me straying further and further from God’s light, but upon further examination I have a revolutionary hot take: it’s not a bad song. Sure, either the movie or Jack has a bias towards it (you can read many a think piece about the film’s/Jackson’s negativity towards pop music), a very negative one considering it essentially implies that this song leads Jack to fall off the wagon again. And sure, it’ll forever be known as the song about butts (but hey, she only mentions butts once!), but it is also a certified banger. Being one of the only club-esque vibe songs on the soundtrack, I feel as if Ally’s “sell-out bops” deserve to be recognized for what they are: catchy and danceable. And what’s so wrong with that? In fact, although admittedly far more cringy, “Why Did You Do That?” vaguely reminds me of some early Gaga songs with the incessant repetition and electronic beats. Read more about the struggle of enjoying Ally’s sell-out bops here.
Memorable lyric: “Why’d you come around me with an ass like that,” of course! Who amongst us hasn’t thought this?
8. I Don’t Know What Love Is
This sweet duet between Ally and Jackson is my personal favorite of their more country feeling efforts. It strikes a great balance between a short and slow country ballad with Gaga showcasing a twang that is not often heard from her, and a tempered love song. Also— a perfect fit for our lovebirds! Jally forever!
Memorable Lyric: “I don’t know what love is/But I think it might be you”
7. Look What I Found
I’ll be honest, this one is not of the highest quality, but it does have one of the most underrated backstories in the movie. It stems from Jackson’s famed “how do you hear it?” line, and travels to a recording scene in which Jackson comes in to make Ally feel more comfortable in studio. The song itself isn’t the best ever, but I’m particularly drawn to it because, to me, Jackson and Ally really consummated their relationship over song. That was the basis of their meet cute, and it’s how we see them show affection. It’s how we see them grow and change as a couple, and I think that is a beautiful aspect of the film in general. We don’t see Jackson and Ally even kiss until after she sings with him on stage (hello Shallow wail!) but even before then the audience can feel the attraction between them. We don’t need PDA because we can already tell—they’re in this. Maybe it’s a testament to Cooper and Gaga’s chemistry, or maybe the writing, but most likely both. “Look What I Found’s” scene shows us another way the Jally relationship is just meant to be.
As for the song itself? It’s a poppy, jaunty, “walking on sunshine”-esque piece of candy that is semi-difficult to understand the meaning of, but you still feel affection towards it anyway. Because look at what she’s found! A bearded Bradley Cooper!
Memorable Lyric: “Look what I’ve found/somebody to carry a piece of my heart” This one was hard guys. I’ll be honest, no lyric was really memorable.
6. Maybe It’s Time
This is by far my favorite Jackson Maine solo song. We knew Jackson is a rock-and-roll crooner, but this melancholy ballad made me understand why this scruffy alcoholic has so many fans screaming at him— it’s truly a beautiful song. It has drawn comparisons to many larger than life artists like Cooper is supposed to be portraying, but an odd one that came to my mind was Otis Redding’s “Sitting at the Dock of the Bay”. Also— it’s at the start of the official trailer for those like me who’ve seen it approximately 200 times.
Memorable Lyric: “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die/it takes a lot to change your plans/hella drain to change your mind”
5. Hair Body Face
I will admit, when I first heard this one I was ready to move it to the bottom of my list. But instead, it has creeped embarrassingly high in this ranking. Among my first thoughts: “I mean, is it even grammatically correct? They really just strung three kind-of body parts together and called it a song, huh?” However— just as with “Why Did You Do That?” this is low-key a club banger, and unlike the former, Hair Body Face is actually about something other than how good some guy looks. Although it’s played off as one of Ally’s “sell-out bops” I low-key respect her for releasing this one. Also, I can only take so many love ballads, okay!
After listening a couple times, I managed to figure out that the general premise of the song is Ally hearing her man’s friends talking crap about how she looks, but guess what! She doesn’t care as long as her Hair Body (and? Commas?) Face are perfect to him. This also allegedly makes her a triple threat, and apparently men love a triple threat (I’m quoting Gaga/Ally here and I trust her/their judgment). Making fun of the premise aside, the relatability is real, as I too have an abnormally large nose, as well as hair, a body, and a face.
Memorable Lyric: “Because baby when I look at you/I’m not sure what to do with you/A man loves a triple threat/Did the party room just see that?”
Admittedly, I’m not sure what this means. The only thing I’m sure of is that I also don’t know what to do with men either! But if someone knows about this party room business, please tell me.
4. Is That Alright?
My one major qualm about this movie is that this lyrical and musical gem is not actually included in the movie, but is instead relegated to the credits. By its placement on the soundtrack, I assume this is supposed to be Ally’s version of wedding vows, and boy does it work as such. It’s another piano ballad that can bring you to tears, and fits perfectly with Ally’s insecurities in life and with Jackson. Her asking, “Is That Alright?” about spending the rest of her life loving Jack is just… too much for my poor soul. It borders on abuse to have to listen to her dreaming of the rest of their lives together but, yeah, it’s fine. Still a fabulous song. It also does wonders in showcasing Gaga’s voice and her versatility and range as an artist.
Memorable Lyric: “Nothing you say wouldn’t interest me/all of your words are like poems to me/I would be honored if you’d take me as I am”
3. I’ll Never Love Again
Disclaimer: I know, deep down, this song is actually tied for second, but the highly depressing nature of it causes it to drift down to three. In all honesty, it would be further down if it weren’t for how good Gaga sounds on it. But what can I say? I’m a highly emotional human! Make up your own ranking if you disagree!
First off, this song has Oscar bait written all over it. But does it deserve it? I’m not sure if the song on paper deserves it, but Lady Gaga does. Once I saw and heard this performance at the very end of the film, I knew Lady Gaga was safely going to win ~so many~ awards. When the song picks up, I hear legends in her voice. All of the legends. Whitney, Mariah, Beyoncé, you name it. But somehow it’s different because it’s Gaga, and it’s also Ally Maine, because even in the song Gaga portrays Ally’s emotions perfectly. Secondly, there are two versions of this song floating around out there— the film version that includes a heartbreaking ~50 second feature from Bradley Cooper showing the song to Ally, and the extended version, in which Gaga improvises, soars and belts like nobody’s business. Both versions have their strengths. I would say the film’s version evokes emotion and sadness from the Jally stans and it gives us an adorable peek at a scene we were not privy to at the time. But, the extended version gives us another look at the singing genius that is Lady Gaga, and works better if you are just at home listening instead of in the theater. Either way, if you have a heart, you will be moved. Period. And even if you don’t have one, you need to hear Gaga’s vocals on this one for sure.
Memorable Lyric: “I don’t want to give someone else the better part of me/I would rather wait for you” AND “Don’t want to feel another touch/don’t want to start another fire”
2. Always Remember Us This Way
This old-fashioned piano ballad is one that details in a somewhat-vague way the love story of Ally and Jackson, and also manages to tug at the heartstrings of any sensitive fool like myself, but still not drift into depressing territory. So basically, the trifecta of ASIB tracks. Gaga’s voice, especially towards the end of the song, soars and flows over the lyrics, but she makes it her own with her own little sound effects as she always manages to do (looking at you, “woooo”s). It drives home the idea that this is a superstar, and in the film it catapults her career. This track comes in at number two because above all, it is a beautiful original love ballad that both showcases Gaga’s fantastic range, and actually is written remarkably well. It also is, to speak plainly, more relatable than “I’ll Never Love Again”, and far less sad. It’s an all-around great song, no matter how you are feeling. Considering the grim ending to this love story, it’s probably best we really do remember them this way.
Memorable Lyric: “When you look at me and the whole world fades/I’ll always remember us this way” AND “When the sun goes down and the band won’t play/I’ll always remember us this way”
I hate to be basic, and I’ve thought long and hard about this one. But, I’ve come to the conclusion “Shallow” not only deserves to be first, it is first. It’s what first enticed viewers of the trailer, and it’s the first thing I’ve found to sum up the movie in 3 minutes and 36 seconds or less. It is the first time Ally explores more than the shallow end of life, if you will. It’s the first time I managed to see Lady Gaga as more than the queen who gifted us with “Bad Romance”. I am remiss if I do not mention THE wail at the start of this love letter to “Shallow”. If you have yet to experience the Shallow wail first hand, read this and this, or better yet, watch the wail for yourself in the trailer. You can fight me on it, but Lady Gaga deserves ALL the awards for last 1 minute and 10 seconds of this masterpiece.
I will say this does not necessarily showcase Gaga’s voice the best, (if you’re looking for that, head to “I’ll Never Love Again” or “Is That Alright?”) but the top song of this monster of a movie needs more qualifications than that. It needs to somehow summarize the drama, the heartache, and the love story that accompanies it. It needs to be relatable to the viewer; it needs to strike a chord somewhere deep inside. It need not exemplify just one feeling of the film; the top song is tasked with attempting to amplify the entire message of the film. For A Star Is Born, that song is “Shallow”.
The song in itself works perfectly for the story: Both Jackson and Ally need to move away from the shallow end, but it also works as a standalone song— in other words, it’s extremely relatable, and it does wonders for inspiration and motivation. We all need to be far from the shallow sometimes, if not most times. Even better, the drum and guitar arrangement gives plenty of room for commoners like us to pretend like we are up there with Ally (or at least getting out of our own shallow end enough to rock out with her). Paired with the visuals of the movie and seeing Ally actually take the stage, you can feel her fear and uncertainty. We can empathize, because we have all felt it. We can all relate to needing to just dive headfirst into our goals, and our passions. We can feel when Ally finally lets go and starts to become the superstar we know she has the potential to be (right around the wail!). Even better, Jackson steps back for most of the song, save for some harmonizing, and truly lets Ally shine. The video of the concert soon goes viral, and the rest is history. Ally and Jackson are bound together forever, and Ally becomes a sensation.
Another testament to the greatness of this track is that you almost forget that none of this is actually real, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are doing such a great job acting. When I first saw ASIB in theaters, this is what had me hooked. One Shallow wail/scream/cry and I was a A Star Is Born stan for life. If anyone needs me, I’ll be trying to figure out how to change my ringtone to the Shallow wail.
Memorable Lyric: “Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?/I’m falling/In all the good times I find myself longing/for change/and in the bad times I fear myself” AND the classic “I’m off the deep end/watch as I dive in/I’ll never meet the ground”
Memorable Sound: here’s my own transcription of the wail: “oh AhhhAWHahHHaaAAAAhhaaHHHAAAAAAAAAAAA”