On the music for A Star is Born, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s on-camera chemistry translates brilliantly onto the charismatic and charming soundtrack. The album opens up with an intro of a band tuning up and quickly blends into “Black Eyes,” that features Bradley Cooper on lead vocals in a bluesy rock track that shows off his impressive vocal delivery. The track itself was co-written by Cooper and Lukas Nelson and is an excellent way to start the soundtrack.
One major disclaimer about this album is that it is interspersed with movie dialogue throughout, which was a bit of a turn off for me. Some may like remembering these key scenes of dialogue from the film, but on an album that has 34 tracks, I found it a bit distracting from the songs themselves.
Cooper worked with vocal coaches and learned how to play the guitar over a two and a half year period of preparing for this role in the film. That must’ve been some hell of a good coach, as Cooper swaggers like a musician who has been doing this for years. “Maybe It’s Time” was written by Jason Isbell and is an early standout track from the first part of the LP. Cooper is very believable in his delivery of the Isbell track, and he even mentioned in several interviews how this particular track launched his character itself.
Instrumental build-ups such as “Out of Time” that were co-written by Cooper and Willie Nelson are performed with grit and an amazing backing band that shines through the speakers. “Alibi” follows this collaboration between Nelson and Cooper that finds the latter singing that, “I’m not lying…without an alibi.” I loved that lyric from the film, and the first listen of the soundtrack, and it drives home the heartfelt song.
The lead single, that was featured in most of the trailers, “Shallow” is one of the better duets you will find in music today. Gaga’s first notes on this track when she sings, “Tell me something boy” still give me chills as I type this up. Her impressive vocal range, that she continues to stretch out on this album, only makes this soundtrack that more memorable. The backing band continues to come through in the clutch on this song, that has some drowned out crowd noise in the background, all making it feel like it was captured on the spot. The major collaborative song featuring the work of Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt is a home run choice of a single.
“Music To My Eyes” is a beautiful duet to follow the aforementioned single, and was co-written by Nelson and Gaga. The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga feels real and makes for an even more enjoyable listen. Not to mention, the harmonies they were able to cook up are beyond what I was expecting for the #1 album in the country.
“Diggin’ My Grave” reminded me very much of the grit and working-man approach of Dustin Kensrue’s solo work and the Earth portion of the Alchemy Index. The song sounds so much like “Moving Mountains,” that I assumed that Kensrue had something behind this soundtrack. However, the track was written by Paul Kennerley and is a great mid-album slab of rock.
The last great and powerful track on the first half of the LP is the part-Lori McKenna penned track “Always Remember Us This Way,” that is wonderfully delivered by Gaga and a backing piano/band. The composure she shows on this track to build up to a fantastic crescendo is nothing short of remarkable, and she will make a lot of newer fans based on her work in this film/soundtrack.
The back half of the LP was a bit lackluster for me. It features more of Lady Gaga’s trademark brand of pop music, and it didn’t connect with me as much as the early collaborations found in the first half. Overall, the power behind the standout tracks mentioned above is well worth the price of admission and this is an album I see myself coming back to more than I ever expected to. I’m not a huge fan of Country as a genre, but the blues, singer-songwriter and pop elements sucked me into the world of A Star is Born.
Lady Gaga was already a star, but she and Cooper are shining a bit more brightly than usual on this excellent work of art. For those who are “scene stuck,” this album may catch you a bit by surprise by its A-lister songwriting and fantastic production elements.