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"Shallow" is a pivotal moment in A Star Is Born, since it speaks about Ally and Jackson's conversations. Gaga wrote it from Ally's point-of-view with the self-aware lyrics asking each other if they are content being who they are. A country and folk poppower ballad, "Shallow" finds Gaga and Cooper trading verses and gradually moves toward the final chorus with a vocal run by Gaga. The recording is interspersed with the sound of audience noise and applause. Gaga premiered it on DJ Zane Lowe's Beats 1 radio show while giving an interview about the film. An accompanying music video was also released, showing Gaga and Cooper singing "Shallow" onstage, interspersed with scenes from A Star Is Born.
Greek Theater, Los Angeles where Cooper and Gaga recorded and filmed the sequence for "Shallow"
Gaga collaborated again with Mark Ronson, with whom she had produced her fifth studio album, Joanne, (2016) to develop the soundtrack for this version of the film A Star Is Born.Joanne contains country-rock tracks and "twangier" ballads like "Million Reasons" and the title track, which influenced the songs in A Star Is Born. In the film, after meeting Gaga's character Ally, Bradley Cooper's character Jackson Maine talks to her about their music and dreams. Ally confesses she has written a track and sings it briefly to Jackson. The lyrics become the basis of "Shallow", whose full version is used in a sequence when Jackson strides onto the stage at Greek Theater in Los Angeles and sings the opening verses. He had invited Ally to come to his show, and she arrives backstage with her friend Ramon. Jackson told Ally he would be debuting the song and had rearranged it to sing at the concert.
Before the second verse Ally musters up the courage to go onstage to sing "Shallow", including belting the loud chorus to the large audience. Their performance goes viral and launches Ally's musical career. The track becomes a staple of her concerts, and appears briefly for a third time when she sings it at The Forum. To film the "Shallow" sequence, Cooper filled the Greek Theater with around 2,000 Gaga fans and then recorded the song. Following the filming, Gaga entertained the crowd playing piano versions of her old songs; Promise of the Real also sang at the venue.
"Shallow" was first heard during a teaser trailer for A Star Is Born in June 2018, where it appeared around the 1:46 mark with Gaga starting to belt the final chorus. The sequence was immediately made into many internet memes. One week before the film's release, Interscope confirmed that "Shallow" would be released as the first single from the soundtrack on September 27, 2018. Gaga premiered it on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 radio show while giving an interview about the film. An accompanying music video was released, showing Gaga and Cooper singing "Shallow" onstage, interspersed with scenes from A Star Is Born. The song was released as a digital download to the iTunes Store, YouTube and Spotify.BBC Radio 2 playlisted the track on October 13, 2018. In the United States, "Shallow" was sent to hot adult contemporary radio on October 15, 2018, and the next day it was added to contemporary hit radio panels.
"Shallow" was among the first draft of the songs written by Gaga, Ronson, Dirty Pretty Things' Anthony Rossomando and Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt. She had played the melody to her collaborators two years earlier in a recording studio in Malibu. When Lukas Nelson came onboard during the soundtrack's development, the track's sound evolved. Nelson used his own band, Promise of the Real, as Jackson's band. Inspired by Eric Clapton, he added a short acoustic guitar intro at the beginning of "Shallow", feeling it would contrast with Gaga's loud belting which follows later in the song. Gaga came to EastWest Studios to help Nelson with the track and direct the band. Nelson recalled some of the instrumentation like, "the crashes of the cymbal, we did that live in the studio based on the vision that we had." As well as producing the track with Gaga, Benjamin Rice recorded it at EastWest and The Village West studios in Los Angeles, assisted by Bo Bodnar and Alex Williams. Tom Elmhirst mixed the song at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. It was engineered by Brandon Bost and mastered by Randy Merrill at Sterling Sound Studios. Ronson also re-recorded a 1980s version of "Shallow", accompanied by big drums, used it the film when Ally plays at The Forum as Jackson commits suicide.
Gaga described "Shallow" as a pivotal moment in A Star Is Born, since it spoke about Ally and Jackson's conversations and their "need and drive" to go deep and move away from the shallow area in their relationship. The singer explained on Beats 1 they wrote the track "from the point of view of Ally, it becomes part of the reason they fall in love. When I was writing music for the film I had to think about Ally as if she wasn't me. I went with a sound for her, even in the pop realm, that's unlike anything I've ever put out before." The songwriting sessions ensued with Gaga at the piano and Ronson, Wyatt and Rossomando on guitar as they tried to come up with the verses. Ronson explained the original draft of the script had Jackson dying by drowning, which resulted in Gaga writing the lyrics, "I'm off the deep end watch as I dive in". Initially "Shallow" was an end credits song, but when the script changed it became a love song about Jackson and Ally. Seeing the initial trailer for the film, Ronson decided not to refine the track anymore and kept it as the final mix. For Gaga, the conversational nature of the lyrics helped to set up Shallow's aria, which she recorded with a falsetto voice. She also came up with the play on the song title "Shallow", "In the sha-ha, sha-ha-ha-low".
A slow-burning, country and folk poppower ballad, "Shallow" features instrumentation mainly from Nelson's acoustic guitar and Cooper's piano with Cooper and Gaga trading verses. The other musicians include: Jesse Siebenberg, lap steel guitar; Anthony Logerfo, drums; Corey McCormick, bass; Alberto Bof, keyboards; and Eduardo 'Tato' Melgar percussion. The recording is interspersed with the sound of audience noise and applause. Cooper sings the line "Tell me something, girl" to open the first verse with restraint. Gaga joins from the second verse belting in a "sturdy voice".
The song moves gradually towards the final chorus with a vocal run, described by Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone as "chilling" with "impressive harmonizing" from both artists, accompanied by drum machine and pedal steel guitar. Gaga sings a roaring vocal, harmonizing the "Haaa-ah-ah-ah, haaawaah, ha-ah-ah-aaah", which ends with the final chorus as she sings the lines: "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". The song is set in the time signature of common time and is composed in the key of G major with a moderate tempo of 96 beats per minute. It follows a chord progression of Em7-D/F♯-G5-C-G5-D, with Gaga's vocals spanning from G3 to D5.
An article for The Guardian, notes "Shallow" depicts the protagonists' self-realization of their current situation and speaks "for those, to whom life has not always been fair or kind". For Gaga, it's the connection and the dialogue established between Jackson and Ally, which made "Shallow" impactful. Ronson believed that working with Gaga on Joanne allowed the singer to delve into a more personal songwriting with "Shallow". He did not think the track would have much impact on the film's story. The lyrics have both characters asking each other if they are content being who they are. They are self-aware, portraying "the gains and pains of stardom", and those of addiction in the lines, "In all the good times, I find myself longing for change, And in the bad times, I fear myself". The songwriters claim the drowning metaphor in the lyrics could be literal as well as about heartache, addiction or dreams shattering.
Nicole Engelman of Billboard described "Shallow" as a strong ballad and a "stunning duet" between Gaga and Cooper, featuring "striking harmony" between them. Carrie Wittmer of Business Insider and Papers Katherine Gillespie compared Cooper's vocals with those of American singer-songwriter Eddie Vedder. Wittmer felt they complemented Gaga's "empowering and distinct voice". Several critics felt the song was worthy of an Oscar nomination for best original song.Pitchforks Eve Barlow commended Gaga's performance, noting the theme "may prove to be Gaga's own apex in the spotlight, her completion into superstar of charts and screen." She wrote that although Cooper did not have "the deep growl of Kris Kristofferson (who played the lead male character in the 1976 film) [he] pulls off the earnestness required to hand over [to Gaga]".
"Shallow" comes at a time when more focus is being put on highlighting the hidden geniuses behind songwriters and performers, as well as achieving gender equality across the music and podcasting industry--both movements that may serve to help female artists and songwriters navigate and thrive in the entertainment industry.
--An article on Spotify discussing the importance of "Shallow" in the contemporary music climate
Ben Beaumont-Thomas of The Guardian noted how "moments before she makes the octave jump for the big chorus, [Gaga's] face flickers with terror", adding the track is "torrid yet robust, and truly outstanding". Jenny Stevens from the same newspaper complimented the lyrics for portraying the "inevitable comedown, the isolation and the untethered moments on the road when addiction can trample over a psyche". Stevens compared Gaga's vocals to those in songs by Fleetwood Mac for their "raw, guttural, powerful" delivery and the ill-fated romance it heralds.Spins Maggie Serota felt Cooper was convincing "as a grizzled, whiskey-throated troubadour, and the ballad gives Lady Gaga a chance to show off her impressive pipes". Maeve McDermott of the Chicago Sun-Times praised "Shallow" for elevating A Star Is Born "from normal blockbuster fare to a masterwork of the form". She feels the "rapturous reception of [the track] was the most universally excited reaction to any Lady Gaga song in recent memory".
Jon Pareles of The New York Times rated it the "most boffo track" from the album and complimented its "exponential buildup" and Gaga's "throaty and breathy to full-scale belting". He felt "Shallow" was an immediate sequel to Gaga's "Million Reasons", but contained characteristic stuttered repeated syllables in the chorus, like her previous songs, "Poker Face" and "Paparazzi" (both 2009). In another review, Jon Caramanica from the same newspaper described the song as a "good, old-fashioned, sound-of-the-1970s, gumption-of-the-1980s, high-treacle-higher-pomp roots ballad", writing that Gaga's vocal "throbs intensely here, leaning deep into the natural husk of her voice".NPR's Lars Gotrich felt "Shallow" is a "quiet, reflective country croon", describing Cooper as having "a sweet and amiable set of pipes" while Gaga as a "theater kid [...] roar[s] in at the chorus... growling the last word as if every rejection, every ex, every barrier embodies it. Beyond the shallow end of life, they embrace the deep."
Nate Jones of New York magazine noted the track was the basis for the development of the romantic relationship between Jackson and Ally in the film. "'Shallow' is the moment Ally and Jack both realize how great they can be when their talents intertwine, and the rest of the movie explores what happens when they start to fray," he added. Writing in Esquire magazine, Matt Miller was initially ambivalent towards the track, feeling it was just "two hooks from the trailer stitched into one song" and had a "meh" response to it. However, after watching the film he changed his opinion, saying "it mostly lives up to expectations--specifically, the first part of the movie and the build-up to when you first hear [it being performed]". In an article published by Spotify analyzing "Shallow"s importance, the writer describes it as the film's "hero song", the first to "truly cover the topic" of the "dangers of Hollywood, fame, and stardom" themes prevalent in A Star Is Born.
In the United States, "Shallow" debuted at number 14 on the BillboardDigital Songs chart, with 12,000 copies sold according to Nielsen SoundScan. The following week, "Shallow" topped the Digital Songs chart selling 58,000 copies (Gaga's sixth chart-topper) and entered at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. This placement reflected the song acquiring 8.3 million streams in its opening week. Following the film's release on October 5, 2018, "Shallow" rose to number five on the Hot 100 and topped the Digital Songs chart for a second consecutive week selling 71,000 copies, up 21% from the previous week. The song marked Gaga's fifteenth top-ten entry on the chart and Cooper's first. By its sixth week on the digital chart, "Shallow" surpassed "Just Dance", "Bad Romance" (both in 2009) and "Born This Way" (2011) as Gaga's longest running Digital Songs chart topper (five weeks on top), selling 274,000 copies. Airplay continued growing to 23.3 million (up 50%) audience impressions, resulting in the song debuting at number 50 on the Radio Songs chart. "Shallow" became Gaga's eighth top 10 on the Adult Pop Songs airplay chart (number six peak) becoming her fastest flight to the tier, topping the five-week climb of "Born This Way". Additionally, "Shallow" has reached number 8 on the Adult Contemporary and number 23 on the Pop Songs charts. For the chart dated December 15, 2018, "Shallow" reached number one on the Dance Club Songs chart, aided by remixes from DJ Aron, Nesco and Lodato, among many others. It became Gaga's 15th leader on the tally, ranking her in 10th place among artists with the most chart toppers. After fluctuating down the charts, the track moved back into the top-twenty of the Hot 100 following the film's Academy Awards nominations, with sales increasing by 50% to 39,000 copies. "Shallow" accrued 148.6 million streams in the United States by January 2019 and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over a million units. As of February 2019, it has sold 596,000 copies in the country.
In Canada, "Shallow" entered at number-one on the Canadian Digital Songs chart, becoming Gaga's fifth leader and first since "Born This Way". Music downloads increased by 31% the following week and it held the top position on the Digital Songs chart. It also opened at number 16 on the Canadian Hot 100 before reaching number three the following week. On the Digital charts the track has remained at the pole position for 16 non-consecutive weeks. In Australia, "Shallow" debuted at number 25 on the ARIA Singles Chart, before reaching number one two weeks later. It became Gaga's fourth song to reach the top, her first since "Born This Way", and Cooper's first. "Shallow" has since held the summit for three weeks. When first topping that chart, it was also the best-selling digital download for the week while entering the ARIA streaming charts at number 14. The track reached the top of the radio airplay charts according to The Music Network. "Shallow" debuted at number 18 in New Zealand and by its second week climbed to number two, with "Always Remember Us This Way" from the soundtrack also entering the chart. After two weeks it topped the charts, becoming Gaga's third number-one song in the country.
The song entered at number 13 on the UK Singles Chart with 20,425 units according to the Official Charts Company, and reached number six the following week. It sold another 36,952 units, becoming Gaga's 12th top-ten song in the nation. The track climbed to number four in the third week, selling 42,548 copies. It also reached the top-ten on the UK Airplay Charts, vaulting from number 62 to number eight, with radio play up by 227.87% and total audience impressions of 48.83 million. For the week ending November 1, 2018, "Shallow" reached the top of the UK Singles Chart becoming her fifth leader (her first since 2010's "Telephone") and Cooper's first. The same week, A Star Is Born also returned to the top of the UK Albums Chart, giving Gaga and Cooper an Official UK Chart double, this being Gaga's third. "Shallow" sold 47,610 units (including 34,406 from sales-equivalent streams), replacing "Promises" by Calvin Harris and Sam Smith, which had 1,200 fewer units sold. It was on the top for a second week and subsequently replaced by Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next". The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) awarded Gold certification to the track for accumulating 400,000 equivalent sales units in the country.
Elsewhere, "Shallow" topped the charts in Ireland, Gaga's sixth number-one and Cooper's first. The song continued to top the charts and attained its highest weekly sales and streams in its third week, when two other songs from the soundtrack, "Always Remember Us This Way" and "I'll Never Love Again" also entered the top-ten. "Shallow" was the top-selling digital download in France for the week ending October 19, 2018, selling 2,400 copies and acquired 1.1 million streams, reaching number 13 on the SNEP Singles Chart with combined sales of 10,000 units. After two weeks, the song reached number six on the chart with 12,400 units (made-up from 2,595 digital downloads and 1.8 million streams). The Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP) awarded "Shallow" a Platinum certification for accumulating 30 million streams (200,000 equivalent sales units). The song sold 30,900 digital downloads in the country by the end of 2018.
Both Jon Pareles and Jon Caramanica of The New York Times ranked "Shallow" as the sixth best song of 2018, with Pareles calling it a "perfectly calibrated power ballad" which achieved "movie-musical triple duty as love song, vocal showcase and plot pivot".Rolling Stone listed it as the second best song of 2018, with Brittany Spanos from the publication calling it a "classic-rock fantasy where the 1990s never ended, yet somehow that's why it fits so perfectly into 2018".
Live performances and covers
"Shallow" is part of the setlist of Gaga's 2018-2019 Las Vegas Residency show, Enigma. After performing her song "Born This Way", Gaga returns to the stage in an oversized march shirt, and plays "Shallow" on the piano as the encore. On January 26, 2019, Bradley Cooper joined her onstage, marking the first time the duo performed the song together live. Cooper recalled that he was terrified of going onstage with Gaga and hoped that his singing was on pitch.
At the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019, Gaga was joined onstage by Ronson, Rossomando and Wyatt, since Cooper was attending the 72nd British Academy Film Awards in London. Gaga wore a sparkling skin-tight bodysuit and high platform shoes which was reminiscent of her looks from The Fame-era. She also carried a bedazzled microphone stand. Brittany Spanos from Rolling Stone thought that Gaga and Ronson "stole the Grammy Awards show with a rocked-up performance" of "Shallow", and compared Gaga's movements on the stage to "Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie". According to Tatiana Cirisano from Billboard, the singer gave a "rollicking performance" of the track as she "held her own, kicking and hair-flipping her way across the stage". The performance generated a number of memes for Gaga's continuous eye-contact with the recording camera onstage. "Shallow" is slated to be performed live at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony.