In 2018, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sang a chart-topping duet called “Shallow” in the third remake of the movie A Star is Born. Then she accepted an Academy Award for best original song during the Oscars in February 2019. It was a proud moment for all four of the talented songwriters, but also for the fans who’ve helped support the song’s journey by downloading its single.
What is the song “Shallow” about?
A Star is Born broke records for ticket and DVD sales. And just the video of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper singing “Shallow” at the Oscars has received 77 million views in a month. But what is the song really about?
As with most music, the meaning behind the song lyrics for “Shallow” is up for debate. Because a lot depends on interpretation and how a song’s message resonates with its listener. The following is based on Lyrical Gypsy’s interpretation.
Communication: Having Deep and Meaningful Conversations
Sometimes music fans get lucky, and one of the songwriters will share his or her insight regarding the lyrics.
According to countless interviews with Lady Gaga, the song lyrics for “Shallow” represent a conversation between two people; a man and a woman who is trying to understand and help each other.
But with society now feeling the wake of the #MeToo movement, the song means so much more. And to some people, “Shallow” represents sharing the truth and bringing hidden issues to the surface.
A Choice: to Take a Leap of Faith, or Stay in the Shallow Where it’s Safer
In the movie A Star is Born, Lady Gaga’s character (Ally) struggles with self-doubt, and she doesn’t want to perform her own music on stage. Not because she lacks talent but because she’s worried about her personal image; specifically her looks, including the size of her nose. So, in the song lyrics, Bradley Cooper’s character (Jackson Maine) questions Ally’s motives for pursuing music and then challenges her to step out of her comfort zones.
Ally agrees that Jackson is right; she needs to step out of her comfort zone and take a leap of faith if she wants to succeed in the music industry. But she worries why he wants to help her when he seems like he can barely take care of himself. She recognizes his addictive behavior but needs help understanding him, too.
Eventually, Ally becomes more confident and begins singing on stage with Jackson to build her self-esteem. Then once she starts performing her on music, her music career ignites.
But as for Jackson, he’s slowly losing his battle against depression and addiction. He’s in way too deep to save himself, or his music career, and now he’s barely treading water.
Both actors sing the same lyrics as a duet, but for very different reasons.
Personal Accountability: and Avoiding Taboo Subjects
Ally feels embarrassed by Jackson’s erratic behavior, but according to the movie, she does very little to intervene. Instead, she often asks Jackson, “You O.K.?” but most of the time she already knows his answer.
Here are a few scenes where Ally could’ve confronted Jackson and held him accountable for his actions:
- When he passes out before they have sex, but she says nothing. Instead, they have sex that morning, then share breakfast with each other as if nothing happened.
- When she learns about his family’s history of drinking during an argument between him and his brother.
- When she tries to share her excitement with him about a possible record deal, but mid-conversation, he falls off the couch drunk. Some people nearby offer to help, but her only response is:
Ally follows Jackson into the bedroom and tries to talk to him, but he changes the subject, and she lets him. They flirt and joke around with each other, knowing he has a drinking problem, but neither person wants to talk about it.
The scene ends with Ally slamming the bedroom door; perhaps, as a metaphor for shutting out the rest of the world.
Avoiding Complacency in a Relationship
When Jackson is sober, he’s supportive, and Ally likes that about him. She even sings, “Look What I Found,” which illustrates how much she enjoys being in a relationship with him. She’s in love, but sometimes love makes it difficult to see a person’s unhealthy behaviors.
Perhaps Jackson’s friend and neighbor, George “Noodles” Stone (played by Dave Chappelle) explains complacency the best:
Like many couples, Ally and Jackson are way over their heads in love with each other, and neither can see a shoreline. They’ve gone too far, and they’ve been through too many things together to turn back now. So, they start pulling each other down.
Improving Self-Awareness in a Relationship
During one of Jackson’s drunken stupors, the couple has a fight and things turn nasty. Jackson becomes belligerent and tells Ally that she’s embarrassing and that she has no talent. Then he calls her ugly, knowing that she’s conscientious about her looks.
But instead of trying to talk to Jackson about how she feels, Ally uses the only ammunition she has against him; his addiction.
A Star is Born is a two-hour movie, but Ally only confronts Jack once while he’s sleeping. She vows that she’ll never try to find him again or help clean up his messes. But then the two of them smile at each other and start carrying on a normal conversation about her show.
Once Jackson is sober, Ally finally confesses her fears that he might not come home, or want to be with her once he finishes rehab.
Of course, Jackson has an excuse and reminds her that he wasn’t drunk the whole time they were together.
Then she replies:
In the same scene, Jackson finally confesses to Ally that he’s sorry, to which she replies, “It’s O.K., it’s not your fault. It’s a disease.”
Even if addiction is a disease and not a choice, it’s not O.K. because it ruins jobs, families, relationships, and lives. And it’s important to talk about behavioral health issues, such as mental illness and addiction because nothing ever gets better without adequate communication.
Sometimes old habits are hard to break, and soon, Ally experiences another rude awakening. Because when all a person knows about life is how to self-medicate to drown out the noise, achieving sobriety becomes much more difficult. And sometimes, experiencing an uninterrupted level of self-awareness is too much to handle.