The many adaptations of A Star is Born prove just how timeless and universal the story is. Riddled with love and heartbreak, the plot follows a burgeoning star and her time-worn partner who takes his own life in fear of her leaving her talent behind to take care of him.
Videos by American Songwriter
In the latest installment of the story, Lady Gaga plays opposite Bradley Cooper as their lives go in opposite directions: she’s on the rise to superstardom and he falls deeper into addiction.
Spoiler alert, but the film ends with Cooper’s character, Jackson, hanging himself in his garage as his final act of devotion to Ally’s (Gaga) career.
“The first ending that I read, [Jackson] actually swims out into the ocean, where he commits suicide,” Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich said of the original ending. “The script that we had when he started shooting, he rides his motorcycle. It was more like the Kris Kristofferson ending [in the 1976 version] with the Ferrari, but with Jackson with the Harley.”
“But Bradley changed his mind and came to see me and pitched the idea of what he ended up shooting,” he continued. “I think he was right. When I watch the movie now, I can’t imagine it ending any other way.”
“Always Remember Us This Way” (penned by Lady Gaga, Natalie Hemby, Hillary Lindsey, and Lori McKenna), is a rousing ballad for a concert sequence when it first comes along in the plot. Following Jackson’s death, it becomes a haunting tribute to the better days of their relationship.
Check out the meaning behind “Always Remember Us This Way” below.
Behind the Meaning
In the lyrics, Gaga reflects on the early days of a relationship, when passion guides your efforts, in the wake of a breakup. She asks to be remembered fondly and thanks her partner for finding a light within her that she didn’t know was there. As the sun sets on their relationship, she remains grateful for the time they spent together.
The lyrics also reference the film characters’ shared musical background. She calls them poets who “don’t know how to rhyme” and nods to their West Coast touring days with the line “that Arizona sky burnin’ in your eyes.”
The story in the song mirrors Jackson and Ally’s relationship. Jackson first saw a gleam of star power within Ally, pushing her to bring her talent to the masses. His death punctuated the end of their relationship, which no doubt left her in emotional turmoil. As seen at the end of the film, Ally holds on to the love she has for Jackson and, instead of holding anger for her late partner, she looks back on their time together with positivity.
“There was a moment where we all got choked up,” McKenna recalled of the writing process to Esquire. Whenever that happens when writing a song, it’s gotta stay! There were moments when [Gaga] would start crying and I’m like, is this good crying or bad crying?! Good crying, right?!
“[Gaga] was so trusting with us,” McKenna continued. “I found her outrageously talented but also much more open than one would expect with a star that big. I really loved working with her. She really took our guidance, which I was surprised by. You figure she knows the character in her head and she’s freaking Lady Gaga. She probably could have done it on her own, but she really was a team player.”
McKenna later likened the song, and the rest of the accompanying soundtrack, to the relationship between Jackson and Ally in the film. “Like in music, the best songs come when the melody and the words find each other at the same time,” she added. “That’s what they did with this film. It’s remarkable.”
While the film’s titular song “Shallow” earned an Oscar nod, “Always Remember Us This Way” clinched a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year. Despite being written for the film, it is still a staple in Gaga’s live shows. The singer played it during her most recent trek around the world, The Chromatica Ball.
So when I’m all choked up
But I can’t find the words
Every time we say goodbye
Baby, it hurts
When the sun goes down
And the band won’t play
I’ll always remember us this way
Lovers in the night
Poets tryin’ to write
We don’t know how to rhyme
But, damn, we try
But all I really know
You’re where I wanna go
The part of me that’s you will never die
(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)