A Film Within an Album: A Closer Look at the ‘A Star Is Born’ Soundtrack

Lady Gaga and Mark Ronson create a powerful and visceral soundtrack that brings 'A Star is Born' to life.

Michael Muth
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga on the "A Star Is Born" album cover. (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

The streaming era of music has been a tumultuous journey of countless ventures within the industry, from unannounced album releases to streaming plans as low as $5 a month. The one area of music that seems to be unbothered by this contemporary platform is the long-lived movie soundtrack. Soundtracks are like the auditory guides through films — helping navigate meaning and invoke emotion. The soundtrack for Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, “A Star is Born,” is the latest to accomplish that musical feat.

As someone who has seen the movie twice, I can confidently vouch for the film’s intimacy, humor and heartbreak, which, to me, makes it an instant classic. Cooper’s character of Jackson Maine and Gaga’s of Ally immediately rope the audience into their country rock-infused Hollywood love story as they grapple with relationship issues, fame, addiction and other roadblocks. After falling in love with the film’s narrative, I wanted to relive the experience whenever and wherever I could. The way to do that? The soundtrack.

Some of the greatest soundtracks of the recent past can be found in films like “The Great Gatsby,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” “La La Land,” “Black Panther” and countless others. The soundtrack that accompanies “A Star Is Born” has the ability to tell the story through your headphones. Lady Gaga is no stranger to giving us chart-topping bops to feast on, and Cooper takes advantage of this in his greatest project to date. In preparation for his role as rockstar Jackson Maine, Cooper went through intense vocal, guitar and piano training for over a year just so he could collaborate with one of the 21st century’s biggest names in music.

The overall music for the film was spearheaded by Lady Gaga and her close friend, and wildly talented producer, Mark Ronson. Gaga and Ronson teamed up to do her last solo album “Joanne,” the music from which largely translated into the soundtrack for “A Star is Born.” The work is infused with big piano ballads, powerful vocals and intimate harmonies. Stand-out songs include the film’s lead single “Shallow,” Gaga’s first solo performance as Ally in “Always Remember Us This Way,” Cooper’s guitar-driven opening track “Black Eyes” and their tear-jerking duet of “I Don’t Know What Love Is.”

Because the soundtrack chronologically follows the film’s plot, the audience can keep up with the various highs, lows and somersaults of the storyline while singing along to their favorite melodies. However, the soundtrack gains much of its cinematic magic from the clever insertion of brief quotes from the film. The scattering of the film’s most important verbal utterings acts an interlude between the songs and brings the story to the forefront. Gaga’s wailing during the bridge of “Shallow” offers intense emotional depth, but to hear the song prefaced by Maine encouraging his love interest and muse to take the stage with him brings in a new dimension to the singer behind the song — the character behind the chorus.

From Bradley Cooper’s intro to Gaga’s finishing song, the listener is able to relive the whole film from start to finish. Through the use of intimate melodies and pivotal dialogue, the soundtrack allows the listener to experience “A Star Is Born” just as they witnessed it on the big screen.

Email Michael Muth at [email protected].

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