Garth Van Donselaar and Zach Steensma–Staff Writers
Note: The version of this album without dialog was used for this review
While A Star is Born couldn’t quite reach the number one spot at the box office, the supporting soundtrack is currently enjoying its second week on top of the Billboard 200.
It’s no surprise the album is seeing such success. The soundtrack’s biggest appeal is its variety. With rocking country, jazz, piano ballads, and even modern sounding pop songs, there’s something for everybody.
Each track, regardless of style, is short and sweet. Most of the songs are only a little over three minutes in length, and nothing overstays it’s welcome. The result is a direct and consistent experience that neither leaves listeners griping for more nor getting bored with lengthy songs.
Instrumentally, the production of the soundtrack is top notch. This is no surprise, given the budget behind the film. Covering wide range of genres, the instrumentals are some of the best out there, featuring everything from acoustic and rocking guitars to heavy and powerful piano ballads.
Vocally, however, the soundtrack is a bit of a hit or miss. Lady Gaga, a prolific and widely acclaimed vocalist, certainly has some pipes, and she showcases her versatility to the fullest extent with this performance.
This creates a bit of a contrast with Bradley Cooper’s performance. Cooper, who hasn’t done much musically outside of his work on this album, supposedly spent years training under Gaga in preparation for the film. His struggle shows, especially on his solo tracks.
That said, it’s hard not to respect the level of dedication shown by both Cooper and Gaga in crafting their performance. Cooper, who directed the film, made the decision that all live performances in the film would be recorded (and filmed) live in real time, an impressive feat that makes it easier to overlook some of the rough spots present on the record.
The downside of live recordings, of course, is the crowd noise, which is annoyingly present on a number of songs in the soundtrack. Since mixing and instrumentals were still done (and done well) in studio, the crowd noise becomes less of an atmospheric effect and more of a distraction.
One such song that suffers from crowd noise is “Alibi,” one of Cooper’s solo tracks. Instrumentally, “Alibi” is fantastic, especially the lead guitar, although it does sound somewhat like a song from a truck commercial. Lyrically, “Alibi” falls flat due to uninspiring and repetitive lyrics, a problem that plagues the entire album. Cooper’s voice is rough around the edges, albeit somewhat deliberately.
However, Cooper does a lot better when paired up with Gaga, as demonstrated by “Shallow,” the lead single track. Cooper and Gaga harmonize and well together, and the duo brings a rough but sweet blend to their overall sound. “Shallow” is still a country song, but its softer and more acoustic than “Alibi,”
Additionally, the A Star is Born soundtrack is not afraid to move into the pop genre. “Why Do You Do That?” sounds like a song from Gaga’s 2008 debut album, The Fame, with a little more modern flare. A couple other songs are in the same ballpark, including “Heal Me” and “Hair Body Face.”
Overall, the soundtrack to A Star is Born does not introduce anything fresh or innovating to the musical scene, but it does offer some of the most solid work in the country and pop genre this year. Despite its weaknesses, A Star is Born offers a few highlights that make it worth checking out.
Best Songs: “La Vie En Rose”, “Shallow”, “Diggin’ My Grave”, “Always Remember Us This Way”, “Look What I Found”