Does Lady Gaga’s Ally Sell Out to Become a Pop Star? ‘A Star Is Born’ Songwriter Weighs In on the Debate
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s “A Star Is Born” is a box office sensation and one of the most beloved movies of awards season, but there has been a debate growing since the film’s October release over whether or not Gaga’s character, Ally, sells out as she makes the jump from singer-songwriter to full-blown pop star. The transition is marked by Ally’s new look (hello, carrot orange hair) and a divisive new sound, part of which was shaped by Gaga’s longtime collaborator Paul Blair.
Blair, who also goes by the name DJ White Shadow, has a producing and songwriting credit on Ally’s four pop songs on the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack: “Heal Me,” “Why Did You Do That?,” “Hair Body Face,” and “Before I Cry.” Many “A Star Is Born” critics have pointed to “Why Did You Do That?” and its immortal line, “Why’d you come around me with an ass like that?,” as a key signifier of Ally selling out. In a pivotal scene, Cooper’s Jackson Maine even references the line as proof Ally has lost her authentic touch.
Vulture’s Hunter Harris recently asked Blair about the debate and whether or not he feels Ally sells out to become famous, and the songwriter responded by saying Ally isn’t doing anything unusual in terms of an artistic journey. “To me, it’s like, anyone that creates art wants it to be seen by the most amount of people as humanly possible,” Blair said. “Tupac had a line on one of his songs that was like you have to do some selling out to get your record out.”
“Everybody who’s an artist has related to Ally as a character,” he said. “Self-doubt, standing by your craft, there’s an arc there that is very universal.”
While many have pointed to the scene where Jackson uses Ally’s pop lyrics against her, Blair said the scene has more to do with Jackson’s destructive mindset than making a universal comment on Ally selling out or not.
“In the movie, Jackson’s on his way out and she’s on her way in. There are a lot of complex emotions tied around the whole thing,” Blair said. “He’s seeing his career dwindle and fall apart — the alcohol, his ears are going out. I don’t think him sitting there and saying, ‘You’re a sellout; your lyrics suck; you’re so much about selling,’ is about the song at all. It’s just, Fuck you for doing awesome; like, my ears are going out and I can’t get out of bed.”
Blair said the Jackson/Ally fight scene is when working on the movie got surreal for him. The songwriting teams on the film wrote tons of material that wasn’t used on the film, but when the line from “Why Did You Do That?” was written into Jackson’s fight with Ally in the bathroom it became clear that song could not change.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s fucking crazy. Bradley Cooper just said the words to the song that we wrote,’” Blair said about learning the song’s lyrics made their way into dialogue in the film. “People filmed that; there were dudes running around with boom mics. You can’t go back and redo that. This is the most expensive song that I’ve ever written. Like, fuck, what if that song sucks?”
Earlier this year, “Why Did You Do That?” co-songwriter Diane Warren also weighed in on the controversial track. Warren told The New York Times the song was not purposely written in a way to be a bad pop song. “I would never purposefully sit down to write a bad song,” Warren said. “This was a fun song, and I love fun pop songs. Not everything has to be serious all the time…The directive was just to write a fun song, something that shows she’s becoming this pop artist.”
“A Star Is Born” is now playing in theaters nationwide. Read Blair’s entire interview over on Vulture.
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