Hey there, this is Teacher ola podcast episode 7: Learn English with Music: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper: ‘Shallow’. Lyrics explained.
My name’s Ola and I teach English through one to one classes.
This podcast is for you if you learn English and you want to start speaking this language with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation, see how to have a tense-free conversation with another English speaker. Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!
Hello again, thank you for choosing to spend these few minutes with me.
One of the most popular songs of 2018 used in the musical drama ‘A Star Is Born’ starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. So, unless you’ve been hiding under the rock I’m sure you know ‘Shallow’. On my website, you’ll find a transcript to this episode and a worksheet. This time it’s a gap fill exercise. You can play the song and fill in the missing words of the ‘Shallow’ lyrics. It’s available at teacherola.com/7.
Today we’re going to talk about this song and I’m super pumped, because just like millions of others I like this song so much.
What’s the secret behind this song that makes it so popular, why do people cry their eyes out listening to it? Why it’s been on billboard chart for so long?
How is it even possible that the guy from the ‘Hungover’ and Lady Gaga’s voices come together so well? It’s a surprise. I also think this is the clue why this song caught us in the gut. For musical arts it always a win to have a duet that is perceived as spontaneous, real, full of real feelings and so on. We, as an audience get that and we love it.
First I’m going to walk you through the lyrics, line by line. Then I’ll show you how the lyrics correspond with the film. I’m also going to give you the meaning of the song, or at least how I understand it. Let us begin.
Tell me somethin’, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Let’s start with a grammar point, which is the use of the verb tell. We tend to misuse it because there’s also the word ‘say’ and we get confused, we don’t seem to see any difference between these words: tell and say. There’s grammatical difference. Both verbs are irregular: tell – told – told, say – said – said. After ‘tell’ you need an indirect object: tell me, tell her, tell them. Say is different, you can’t say: say me, say her. No, that’s wrong, something is missing, huh? It’s ‘to’. ‘Say to her’, ‘she said to me’. I think I’ll have the entire grammar episode about this point since there’s much more to say here, about exceptions, of course and I promise, I’ll come back to you with that soon.
Let’s follow the lyrics:
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?
Normally we don’t ask questions with ‘something’. ‘Something’ is used in affirmative sentences: ‘I have something to say’. In questions and negations we use ‘anything’. I haven’t got anything to say. BUT. If we expect positive answer, then we can use something in a question. For example: Do you want something to drink? Is there something else you’re searching for? We expect positive answer. When you ask your guests ‘do you want something to drink?’ we really want them to drink something. It’s not a real question: ‘Do you want anything to drink? ’ That’s ok too, but with ‘something’ you expect positive answer so it’s like, more polite.
In all the good times I find myself
Longin’ for change
And in the bad times I fear myself
Let’s talk about the verb ‘fall’. The past and participle forms of this verb are: fell – fallen. You can fall off the mountain, you can fall out of the boat, you can also fall in love. Maybe the phrase ‘to fall in love’ was the intention of the songwriters here. I’m falling. I’m falling in love? Maybe.
To find oneself – means to be in a particular state of mind. ‘How do you find yourself today?’ ‘How do you feel’, ‘what’s your mood’, ‘what’s your mindset?’
Next word is: to long. Yes, it’s a verb here. To long means: have a strong wish or desire. ‘She longed for it for years’, ‘I’m longing for change’, I’m looking for it.
Next verb in the paragraph was: I fear myself. To fear means to be frightened of something or somebody. Example: ‘Don’t worry, you have nothing to fear with us.’
Next part is sung by Gaga:
Tell me something, boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?
To fill that void. Let’s learn it as a whole unit instead of separate words, because it’s a strong collocation. It means: to fulfill a large, empty space. Maybe empty life, maybe something is missing from your life and you have to fill that void.
One more thing is this paragraph: ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore. Ain’t. Ain’t means: is not/are not/am not/has not or have not. For example: I ain’t got no money. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone. It ain’t me. It ain’t over till it’s over. As you can see this word is often used in songs. It’s shorter. It’s not a standard language, it’s a contraction and use it in informal contexts.
I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
You don’t want to dive in the shallow end of the swimming pool, it’s dangerous, and stupid. It’s actually impossible. The deep end is for diving. For jumping into water with you head and arms first.
I’ll never meet the ground here means: I won’t touch the bottom, because it’s so deep.
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now
To crush has a few meanings, but here it’s very plastic, imagine somebody diving into water, the moment when they break the smooth surface of the water and go under it. It’s crushed. Now, when you’re diving in the deep waters you’re far away from the shallow. There’s nothing shallow about diving in deep waters, right?
Shallow. This word has two meanings. The first is: not having much distance between the top or surface and the bottom, for example:
A shallow dish, a shallow end, a shallow grave.
The other meaning of shallow: not showing serious thought, feelings, etc. about something. It can describe people, shallow people, shallow ideas, shallow comments, shallow reviews and so on. In other words: superficial, not deep.
Now, let’s move on to the meaning of this song in the context of the film. The song is a dialog between Ally and Jackson. They talk about their need and drive to run away from everything shallow between them. They are having an open dialog with each other. This is what makes this song successful and beautiful.
There’s a real connection between them, and most importantly they are listening to each other. Do you remember the scene in the car park? They were listening to each other.
Tell me something girl / are you happy in this modern world
It might be Jack’s reference to her dead-ended job as a waitress, or maybe a reference to her picking up after her dad and his friends. Maybe it’s a reference to her performs in a drag bar.
or do you need more, is there something you’re searching for?
It’s about the life she could have. Jackson is the first to see her talent and he knows she’s made for bigger things.
When he sings: I’m falling / in all the good times / I find myself longing for change / and in the bad times I fear myself.
This part makes me think about the scene in a car, when Jack is after the gig and there’s a bottle in his hand somehow foreshadowing the future.
Tell me something boy / are you tired of trying to fill that void / or do you need more / ain’t it hard keeping it so hard-core
Ally knows the real Jackson, not from the beginning though. Later she finds out Jack is trying to numb inner demons. Not just alcohol, but also his music career, family issues, brother especially. Mostly, alcohol though. Remember the alcohol-induced show?
I’m of the deep end / watch as I dive in
Fun fact. In the original version of the script Jackson died by drowning, what was the inspiration for the lyrics I guess. Another thing is that the song was supposed to be played during end credits. That would be such a waste. Thanks God they changed it.
The title is ironic. This song is not shallow at all, the message is very important and we don’t get songs this deep often I think. Lyrics can mean something different to each person who listens to them. For me, and for so many people in this world, they are very relatable.
Lady Gaga said, that this is one of the most authentic things she’s ever written. It’s about conversation, talking and listening which is rarely seen and at the same time it’s connecting with everyone. She also pointed out that our mobiles become our reality, and we’re not listening or talking to each other anymore. We’re on our phones. We’re lacking real conversations and instead of them we get meaningful discussions about nothing. Lady Gaga said: ‘We’re living in a time where there’s so much conversation about women’s voice being heard. Men listening to those voices.’ That’s the deep, special meaning of this song.
Now. Do you like this song? How do you get it? Is your understanding similar to mine? Have you watched the film? Let me know in the comment section at teacherola.com/7. There’s also a worksheet waiting for you. It’s a gap fill exercise of Shallow, check out how much you remember.
If you know somebody who enjoys learning through song lyrics, let them know about me.
Next episode is about a grammar point. Have or have got to? Which to choose? What’s the difference, if any? Make sure to subscribe and do not miss it! Ok, that’s all folks, stay at the deep end of you relations, of your mindset, of your life, take care. See you very soon, next week. Happy learning. Bye, bye!