RECORD REVIEW: “A Star Is Born” (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

October 9, 2018 by: admin

RECORD REVIEW

A Star Is Born

(Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

Interscope Records

If you can disconnect fully from any perceptions you may have of Bradley Cooper being “just” an actor with chiseled abs, and Lady Gaga being “merely” a Pop-Tart in a meat suit, you might then be open to receiving an incredible musical treasure. Simply put, the just-released soundtrack to the latest film incarnation of the classic A Star Is Born saga is one of the most alluring records to come down the pike in a VERY long time.

The standard CD version contains 34 tracks — 15 of which are short dialog clips from the film — woven methodically in between the actual songs throughout the record. While in theory, this six minutes worth of added audio likely is meant to better define the story, in execution, the tracks are gratuitous and prove to be jarring distractions from what is an otherwise beautifully organic musical experience. And although the inclusion of Lady Gaga’s four synthetic-sounding, signature-style pop numbers are necessary to complete the film’s storyline, they too are a buzzkill. However, if (like me) you opt to rip those distractions from your digital playlist, what you’ll be left with is an impeccable and cohesive, 15-track, 50-minute collection — one dripping with authentic intensity.

And “authentic” is THE key word when describing these songs. From the project’s get-go, Cooper reached out to acclaimed singer / songwriter and musician, Lukas Nelson — bringing him into the fold as a creative consultant and co-songwriter. Of the soundtrack’s 15 golden “keepers,” Nelson co-wrote a total of seven — with Cooper as well as with Gaga.

Not only is the songwriting quality consistently authentic, the performances also are straight-up legit. Cooper’s vocals are as believable as any of today’s acknowledged Bonnaroo trailblazers. As for Gaga, her undeniable talent sparkles brightly from start to finish — proving that she just might possess the most impressive pipes on the planet.

But what makes this soundtrack particularly magical is the songs themselves. The record kicks off strong with Cooper’s authentic live track, “Black Eyes.” Written by Jason Isbell, “Maybe it’s Time” is a simple, thought-provoking acoustic guitar / vocal composition, while the Gaga / Cooper / Nelson-penned “Alibi” is a gritty and honest, sweat-soaked Cooper triumph.

Gaga’s contributions are equally moving. If her powerful, piano-driven love song, “Always Remember Us This Way” doesn’t absolutely rip your heart out, then it’s time to call an EMT. A songwriting collaboration between Gaga, Nelson and a cast of others, “Look What I Found” oozes the timeless, soulful, singer / songwriter charm of the early-mid ’70s. Gaga’s delicate piano / vocal number, “Is That Alright?” is so honest and so pure, you can hear her voice cracking at times —  brutally chilling, to be sure. But it’s Gaga’s fragile, film-ending, “I’ll Never Love Again” that might be her brightest moment and most compelling performance.

In addition to the undeniable appeal of Cooper and Gaga’s individual performances, what makes this record truly pop is the indescribable spark between the two on their heart-stopping duets. While “Shallow” is an epic piece of work, both “Music to My Eyes” and  “Diggin’ My Grave” are riveting. But, it’s the gorgeous, old school, Eddy Arnold-style “I Don’t Know What Love Is” that delivers the mightiest payoff.

In sum, I’m sold completely on these songs and performances. The Cooper / Gaga combo is simply superb and — authentic. In fact, when whittled down properly, the 2018 soundtrack for A Star Is Born succeeds in restoring my jaded personal passion for current popular music.

-Christopher Long
(October 2018)

Christopher Long Official Site

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