Tag Archives: character analysis


“Shallow” as an Analysis of Shared Experience in A Star is Born

After that late-February Oscar performance, pretty much everyone on the planet has heard “Shallow,” a song performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the film, A Star is Born. The song has been a pop-culture phenomenon, becoming a Billboard-topping platinum hit and winning an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe. The song, beyond being an obvious earworm (devised by Mark Ronson, the man behind hits such as Uptown Funk), has also generated a strong emotional response from audiences. So what has made the song resonate so powerfully with audiences? In a November 2018 interview with Billboard, Gaga noted that “it’s the connection and the dialogue established between Jackson and Ally, which made “Shallow” impactful.” In other words, Gaga believes that the conversation through which the main characters, Jackson and Ally, get to know one another, is also a form of introducing their characters to the audience. This moment of shared intimacy is what has made the song so precious to audiences. From Gaga’s claim, we can see “Shallow” as a form of very effective character analysis.

To show how “Shallow” effectively analyzes Jackson and Ally’s characters for the audience, let’s put “Shallow” in the context of the movie (some small spoilers to come). Jackson has just met Ally after her performance at the bar, and now they’re sitting in the parking lot chatting. Ally realizes that Jackson is often objectified as a celebrity, with his privacy violated consistently by fans and non-fans alike. Meanwhile, Jackson recognizes that Ally, in spite of her powerful voice, lacks the confidence and opportunities to express herself as a songwriter. In this key moment of realization and recognition of key aspects of one another’s personalities, Ally breaks up the dialogue by immediately interpreting it into another form: a song. This analysis opens the audience up to an implicit realization of the commonalities between Jackson and Ally’s experiences, and how they are obviously yearning for something beyond what they currently are experiencing. Ally uses her song as a form of analysis to point out that neither of them are truly happy with who they presently are. This analysis is so powerful that, it resonates with both of them, as well as audiences (in the movie and in real life), making the song the foundation of not only Jackson and Ally’s relationship, but also the start of Ally’s career and the source of another trophy in Lady Gaga’s Givenchy bag.

“Shallow” by Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando, & Mark Ronson

Tell me somethin’, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

I’m falling
In all the good times I find myself
Longin’ for change
And in the bad times I fear myself

Tell me something, boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?

I’m falling
In all the good times I find myself
Longing for change
And in the bad times I fear myself

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

–Catherine Wang ’19