The song Shallow in the recent remake of A Star is Born is simply an unfinished song. As a former songwriter and musician, here’s my analysis.
Why am I writing about songwriting?
I’m normally more vocal about marketing and copywriting. It’s true. But Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradly Cooper is really just two unfinished songs (at worst) and one (at best).
I realize you all love this song and you love it because of the emotion of the movie and Lady Gaga’s voice and how handsome Bradly Cooper is. Heck, I’ve been swooning over him since he was in Alias. But the song is what it is, a narrative vehicle for a musical. But it’s not finished.
The character in the movie drags her on stage after hearing part of the song in a parking lot. Barbara Streisand’s song from the previous movie was finished. This one is not. Here’s why.
Shallow: The Verses
The first verse was added second. A call to the girl. Is she really happy or does she need more? This was built upon the verse first written by Lady Gaga.
Tell me somethin’, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?
Both versions of the verses include that they are falling. Are the falling in love or out of reality? We don’t know. All we know is that they want change when things are good but fear themselves when things are bad.
In all the good times I find myself
Longin’ for change
And in the bad times I fear myself
This is my favorite part of the song, by the way. It shows the true emotion when we are dissatisfied, long for contentment, and / or struggle with depression and mental illness. Ryan Montbleau has a song with a line that says “I left myself alone again with me.” It strikes a similar theme: depression.
Shallow: The Bridge
This is the part that is missing. Where does “I” change to “we?” Where do they identify the enemy of “they?” Are they falling in love? We don’t know. This would be an easy change. To say that they trust one another though they fear themselves. They can hide from their enemy in the deep end. Though, to be fair, in the verses, the enemy is the self.
Shallow: The Pre-Chorus
I love this hook. It’s strong and powerful. Honestly, when I was challenged by my friend Chris Chram (of Cram-e-oke to learn this duet for Monday Night Karaoke at my local pub), I was totally stoked. It’s an emotional lyric and the music coordinates perfectly.
I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now
The theme of the pre-chorus is being far from the shallow end where “they can’t hurt us.” Who is they? In the verses, self was the enemy, not a third party. Also, now we have the introduction of a love theme which was absent from the verses. The verses pose questions from one to another — there is no declaration of love.
Shallow: The Chorus
There’s nothing wrong with the chorus, per se. It has a great hook and is memorable, both melody and lyric. That’s what makes a good song. It goes with the pre-chorus.
It’s unfinished. I’ll die on this hill.
I don’t care what awards it won. Even in Cosmo’s analysis of the song, the context of the song entirely depends on the movie. As a stand alone song, I will forever think of it as unfinished.
“Their shared space, whether that’s a stage, a recording studio, or an empty parking lot in the middle of the night, is where they are the safest, far away from those critical of Ally’s looks and far away from Jackson’s addiction to alcohol.” Cosmopolitian