Note: This post contains light spoilers for “A Star Is Born.”
I saw “A Star Is Born” last Friday night, and by Saturday I was singing the soundtrack audibly while walking through Target. The album has been the gift that keeps on giving, with tracks from Bradley Cooper, who plays dreamy alt-country/rock singer Jackson Maine and Lady Gaga, who plays Ally, the singer-songwriter Jackson discovers and falls in love with.
The album is expected to debut at No. 1 on next week’s Billboard 200 albums chart, and for good reason: The songs are fantastic. It helps that many of the tracks were co-written by sought-out songwriters, including Gaga herself, and helmed by prominent producers including frequent Gaga collaborators Nick Monson and DJ White Shadow, and the film’s music director, Lukas Nelson (son of Willie). The non-dialogue version has 19 tracks (including two versions of “I’ll Never Love Again”), which plot out the highs and lows of Ally and Jackson’s relationship and careers. I’ve ranked all of them below. Obviously, there’s room to disagree — let me know your favorites in the comments. Or, as Jackson might say, “How do you hear it?”
18. “Too Far Gone,” Bradley Cooper
“Please don’t tell me I’m too far gone,” Cooper begs on this track, which clocks in at less than a minute and a half and feels as though it might pack more of a punch when performed at a Jackson Maine concert.
17. “La Vie En Rose,” Lady Gaga
When Jackson first meets Ally, she’s singing the Édith Piaf classic in a drag bar. She kills it. (Fun fact: Cooper speaks fluent French.)
Ally’s rendition is outranked by several superior songs on this list, but it’s important to the film. There has been debate over the film’s apparent aversion to the pop music that cements Ally as a star. But “La Vie En Rose” establishes her as a true singer not beholden to any genre, which is why Jackson views her as a perfect fit for his tour.
16. “Out of Time,” Bradley Cooper
No lyrics here. Just Jackson and his guitar. Your foot is guaranteed to start tapping.
15. “Hair Body Face,” Lady Gaga
This track channels Ally’s insecurities about her looks, but it’s tough to take a song seriously when it’s literally called “Hair Body Face” and repeats those words throughout. The chorus is redeeming, though, as Ally sings confidently about a lover telling her to ignore what other people (including his friends) may say about her:
“Trying to leave here, but you won’t let me leave / Saying that if I care what they think, I’ll never succeed / I won’t leave here if you promise to me / I’ve got the hair, body, face — hair, body, face for you."
The bass-filled track also feels as if it’s beckoning dance troupes to start choreographing already.
14. “Is That Alright?” Lady Gaga
Ally pours out her Jackson Maine-loving heart in this sweet but cheesy ballad. That’s all right.
13. “I Don’t Know What Love Is,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
This very sweet song feels as though it was made especially for fans of Ally and Jackson, the couple. Do their fans call them Jally? Or Jackly? Or Allyson? Why don’t we know this?
12. “Alibi,” Bradley Cooper
“I ain’t lyin’ / I don’t lie / Without an alibi,” Jackson declares. I believe him.
11. “Maybe It’s Time,” Bradley Cooper
This song is Jackson Maine at his most vulnerable — just Cooper, his guitar and that Sam Elliott-inspired baritone. Swoon.
10. “Before I Cry,” Lady Gaga
This song quite beautifully charts the aftermath of an argument in musical form, but it suffers from an erratic arrangement. Gaga’s vocals soar as usual, though.
9. “Diggin’ My Grave,” Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
Calling all jam bands! Gaga’s mezzo-soprano matches the energy of Jackson’s guitar note-for-note in this soulful, concert-worthy anthem.
8. “Heal Me,” Lady Gaga
This sensual track is overshadowed by Ally’s music-exec drama in the film. It’s worth another listen (or five).
7. “Black Eyes,” Bradley Cooper
This is the song that introduces us to Jackson Maine in the film’s opening scene. “Black eyes, open wide, It’s time to testify,” Cooper crows after the intro, which rumbles through an exciting mix of drums, bass guitar and keys. Co-written by Cooper and Nelson, it’s easy to imagine this song being one of Jackson’s biggest radio hits and a crowd favorite at his concerts. It’s also fun to listen to in the car.
6. “Look What I Found,” Lady Gaga
“Look What I Found” is the backbone of a memorable scene in which Jackson helps a struggling Ally through a studio session. It’s a definitively pop effort, bolstered by Gaga’s controlled belting and reliable piano skills.
5. “Why Did You Do That?” Lady Gaga
This irresponsibly catchy song — about an all-consuming infatuation with a new love interest — is a source of tension in “A Star Is Born,” and I suspect it will be so on this ranking. It’s Ally’s first commercial hit (emphasis on commercial), and Jackson makes clear in brutal terms that he believes she sold out in agreeing to record it. He looks physically pained while watching her perform it on (surprise!) “Saturday Night Live,” and there’s something meta about the refrain, paired with Ally’s stilted dance moves: “This is not / Not like me.”
Punctuated by xylophone notes, the song (co-written in real life by hitmaker Diane Warren) is cotton candy: light, airy and fun. It feels at home sandwiched between commercials on SNL. Put simply: The song slaps. And as Vulture’s Nate Jones notes, “There’s a certain transgressive thrill in stanning for something a gigantic critically acclaimed film is telling you is bad.”
4. “Music to My Eyes,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Jackson and Ally team up on this gem, penned by Gaga and Nelson. It features beautiful, evocative lyrics right from the first verse, in which Cooper croons: “You’re music to my eyes / I had to listen just to find you / I’d like for you to let me sing along / Give you a rhythm you feel.”
3. “Always Remember Us This Way,” Lady Gaga
This gorgeous ballad recalls the moment Ally fell in love with Jackson. Ally gives sweet nods to each of their geographic roots, beginning, “That Arizona sky / burning in your eyes,” before later confessing that the moment is “buried in my soul, like California gold,” which helps clear up some of the confusion around where the film takes place. When Ally performs this in the film, it’s a watershed moment that leads her to fame.
2. “Shallow,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
“Shallow” is what grabbed the attention of many moviegoers long before the film hit theaters. At the height of the trailer Lady Gaga belts out a pitch-perfect, showstopping howl. (This is the best transcription I’ve seen.)
It’s a great moment in the trailer, but it’s chills-inducing in the theater. Even the babies understand how good this song is. The other day my 4-year-old goddaughter asked me to “put on that song from the movie you saw … the one where she shouts.”
1."I’ll Never Love Again,” Lady Gaga
There are two versions of this heart-rending ballad on the soundtrack. “Don’t want to give my heart away / to another stranger / Or let another day begin / Won’t even let the sunlight in / Oh, I’ll never love again,” Ally declares through Gaga’s passionate but controlled vocal runs. Cooper appears, indelibly, in the film version.
But it’s the extended, Gaga-only version that sends this song conclusively to the top of my list. After showcasing her enviable range, Gaga transitions into a honey-tinged, almost jazzlike section that feels as though she ad-libbed it in the studio. I hear Whitney. I hear Celine. I hear Mariah. I hear Gaga. I believe she’ll never love again.
I also believe this song will win an Academy Award come February.