‘A Star is Born,’ broken down track-by-track

The soundtrack for the hit musical blends country, pop and soul to great effect.

This review contains spoilers for “A Star is Born.”

Since its release on Oct. 5, “A Star is Born” has garnered massive success and critical acclaim. We’ve listened to the 18-track soundtrack and compiled a handy list of reviews for some of the film’s most memorable songs.

“La Vie En Rose”

We would like some French tips tonight! As “A Star is Born” fans may know, director and star Bradley Cooper originally eyed Lady Gaga for the role of Ally when he heard her sing this very song. Her character’s performance of the Édith Piaf classic in a dim, rosy-colored drag bar is also the first time that she and Jackson Maine (Cooper) meet in the movie. Either way, Gaga nails it, and seeing her swan around the scene as a big fish in a small pond sets up an effective contrast to the vulnerability that Ally later shows in the face of a large, professional audience.

“Maybe It’s Time”

Markedly gentler and more vulnerable than other Jackson Maine songs on the soundtrack, Cooper’s Sam Elliott-inspired tune, “Maybe It’s Time,” opens the film’s official trailer and plays three times in the movie itself. The lyrics themselves adamantly defy traditional country music themes (“Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die / I’m glad I can’t go back to where I came from”) in a way that lends credibility to Jackson’s immense dedication to making authentic, personal art that may bend genres. Compared to the consistent presence of “Maybe It’s Time,” the grittier, alternative/country rock that Cooper performs throughout the rest of the film feels somewhat fragmented.

“Out of Time”

This instrumental may be little more than a lead-in to “Alibi,” but we’d be lying if we said it hadn’t gotten stuck in our heads more than anything else in the movie. Plus, it makes perfect accompaniment for when you’re in a rush to get to your midterms on time. Its inclusion in the movie’s first montage is one of the most thrilling moments in the film.

“Shallow”

Vowels? Invented. Primal, musical screams? Invented. Centuries from now, historians will look back on Sept. 28, 2018, as the day music peaked. That, of course, was the day “Shallow,” the already-legendary Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga collaboration, was released. The song has spawned countless memes and thinkpieces (and will likely be used for a gratuitous number of subpar karaoke duets and ukulele solos in the coming months), but its use in the film is nothing short of breathtaking.

“Diggin’ My Grave”

Why wasn’t this song used in the tour montage, Bradley? We’re only treated to the first few solo verses of “Diggin’ My Grave” in the film, but the soulful harmonies and guitar riffs in the full version are an electric, sensual showcase of Jackson and Ally’s chemistry and growing intimacy.

“Always Remember Us This Way”

This gorgeous ballad caps off the exhilarating first act of “A Star is Born,” building to a satisfying and emotional chorus that lands Ally her first record deal. Complete with powerhouse vocals and intimate lyrics, we are reminded of how hard the two leads are falling for one another. That poignancy only makes the story’s inevitable tragedy more searing and human. “The part of me that’s you will never die.” Now that is how you do foreshadowing.

“Heal Me”

This sleek track is overshadowed by Ally’s irritable manager Rez (Rafi Gavron) in the film, but its pleading, futurepop sound makes it worth another listen. “Heal Me” is the perfect song to hear in a crowded Sephora at dusk, or when you need to mix it up with the aux cord during Oscar season.

“I Don’t Know What Love Is”

Every iteration of “A Star is Born” features a wedding between the story’s two leads, and Cooper and Gaga’s “I Don’t Know What Love Is” plays during their characters’ vows and reception. It’s a sweet, warbling duet that calls Amy Winehouse’s neo-soul style to mind.

“Is That Alright?”

“Is That Alright?” plays over the end credits of the film, and while it isn’t quite as effective as “I’ll Never Love Again,” it still features an extremely impressive vocal performance from Lady Gaga. It feels like a waste to have so many great songs barely be featured in the movie, but director Cooper made the right call choosing “I’ll Never Love Again” as the final song. Lyrically, “Is That Alright?” is incredibly specific to the events of the film, and besides, the universal appeal of “I’ll Never Love Again” is what makes it so emotionally resonant.

“Why Did You Do That?”

Like “Maybe It’s Time” and “Shallow,” this song is meant to convey a clear emotional shift in the film. Ally’s stilted dance moves and light, superfluous lyrics about early infatuation are meant to signify to us as viewers that (as Jackson bluntly mentions minutes later), she’s “sold out.” The use of pop in the movie’s exploration of musical authenticity has been a hot source of discourse since the film’s releases, with some critics arguing that these implications are outdated and paternalistic. That being said, “Why Did You Do That?” is undeniably a bop. Plus, the chorus can be applied to everything from calls to your senator to your professor making a cumulative final in a gen-ed class. “Why did you do that, do that, do that / Do that to me?”

“Too Far Gone”

If anything, “Too Far Gone” is far too short. This Cooper joint is one of his better songs in the film and is reminiscent of bands like My Morning Jacket, but at a little over a minute and a half long and consisting of just one verse and chorus, it ultimately fails to make the impact it intends to. Plus, having a character who dies tragically at the end of every version of this story sing a song with this name is an interesting choice.

“I’ll Never Love Again - Film Version”

“I’ll Never Love Again” could potentially win Lady Gaga two Oscars. The song itself is the kind of powerhouse ballad that hasn’t been seen since “My Heart Will Go On,” but it’s Gaga’s performance of it in the movie that really sells it. After two hours of incredible acting, she sends us home on a devastating note with this orchestra-backed number. The sudden cut to Cooper singing the song in the film is a heartbreaking moment, but its inclusion in the soundtrack version is somewhat jarring.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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