tiff 2018

Everything You Need to Know About the Moment Lady Gaga Goes ‘HAAA AH AH AH AAAH’ in A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born. Photo: Clay Enos/Warner Bros.

One minute and 46 seconds. As all true cinephiles know, that’s how long you have to wait in the Star Is Born trailer to get to the part when Lady Gaga takes a deep breath, steps up to the mic, and unleashes an almighty wail: “HAAA AH AH AH AH, AAAH AAAH, AH AH AH AH HAAA.” It’s a moment every trailer editor must dream of, a scene that instantly crystallizes everything the movie is selling: huge emotions, unabashed romance, and above all the idea that stardom can be yours if you’re brave enough to stand up and be really, truly yourself.

But you don’t need me to tell you that. If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably watched the trailer somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million times, and possibly also spent a few drunken nights recreating the scream yourself. But now that the movie has screened at Toronto, I have the honor of being able to answer every single question a person might have about how that howl plays out in the film itself.

Great! My first question is of course, how long do I have to wait for that iconic yelp to show up?
Unfortunately, TIFF’s ban on recording devices prevented me from getting an exact timestamp of the moment the scream appears in the film. (Next time I’ll bring a stopwatch.) But it’s quite early — if I had to guess, I’d say it’s around 30 minutes in.

And it happens in a song called “The Shallow,” right?
Correct! The moment in the trailer is actually the second time we hear “The Shallow” in the film. The first comes during our stars’ extended Meet Cute. It all starts when country star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) wanders into a drag bar where Ally (Lady Gaga) is the only cis woman allowed to perform. He takes to her, and the two of them spend the night together talking about art and dreams like they’re in a dirtbag Before Sunrise. After some prodding from Jack, Ally mentions she’s thought about writing songs, and eventually she lets her guard down enough to sing him one. This is the seed that will become “The Shallow,” and the movie’s marketing department was savvy enough to make it the centerpiece of their latest clip:

Are there more words to the song besides the few lines we hear in the trailer?
Indeed. As you can hear in the clip, it starts with Ally singing what eventually becomes the first verse (“Tell me something, boy …”) before getting to a bit that she thinks “could work as a chorus or something.” It’s slightly longer than the version you hear in the trailer: “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 part in the trailer where Cooper and Gaga harmonize on that last line actually seems to come from the post-chorus.)

The next time they see each other, Jack has whisked Ally away to a show of his, where he has a surprise for her. He’s done a full arrangement of “The Shallow,” and he wants her to come up onstage and sing it with him. This is the scene that’s in the trailer; you know how it goes: “All you have to do is trust me.” Guess what happens next.

Exactly. The next day, a clip of Ally onstage goes viral; if this is a movie about a star being born, that moan is the moment the head starts to crown.

Is the yowl as good in the movie as it is in the trailer?
Maybe better? I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up a bit. Cooper and Gaga have a lot of chemistry, and this moment is the payoff for all their first-act flirtation. They have sex later, but the movie doesn’t linger on it — singing together onstage is the real consummation.

It’s also, interestingly enough, the most Ally sounds like Lady Gaga for the entire movie. “The 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. Ally soon embarks on a solo career, and while her other songs aren’t terrible, well, none of them are “The Shallow.” (One of them is about butts.) Part of the subtext of the movie’s last act is Ally slowly coming back to the sound that’s more her — the sound of that barbaric yawp.

I see. Does the song ever pop up again?
Yup! Though it doesn’t really sound anything like her other hits, “The Shallow” is apparently a regular-enough part of Ally’s concert repertoire that she sings it in a homecoming gig at the Forum. (It’s unclear if it was on her album or one of Jack’s, or if they released it together as a standalone single.) However, the scene ends before she can get to the part of the song with the shriek, which is probably for the best, as a reprisal would only diminish the power of the original. But still, that bellow is so beautiful that, like Jackson Maine, I can’t help wanting to take another look at it.

UPDATE: The full version of Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” is now available.

Lady Gaga’s Star Is Born Wail: Everything You Need to Know