The true star of the most anticipated movie of 2018, A Star Is Born, is not Lady Gaga. It is not Bradley Cooper. It is not the leftover spaghetti and meatballs that brought those two together, nor the performance of “La Vie en Rose” at Sean Parker’s house that led to Gaga’s casting, nor even the oft-memed exchange in which a leathery Cooper rolls down the tinted window of an SUV and says “I just wanted to get another look atcha,” and Gaga smiles a smile as if to say, “Oh, silly you.”
No—the true star of A Star Is Born is revealed around a minute and 40 seconds into the movie’s first trailer, when music begins to build and an anxious, perhaps scared Lady Gaga forcefully grabs a microphone and unleashes a torrent of nonwords.
That “HAAAAAAA AH AH AH, AHHH” is instantly iconic; unavoidable, wont to worm its way into your brain and besiege every thought. Those nonwords are much more important, much more powerful, than the actual words Gaga sings next. (I will not write them out—if you’re reading this, I know you already know them by heart.) And now that the song they live in, “Shallow,” has been released in full—premiering on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 radio show in between songs by Silk City and Samm Henshaw, the indignity!—we can hear that they’re not the only guttural pleas made by Gaga. “Shallow” is full of nonwords, noises utilized to capture emotion in ways the English language is incapable of doing. Below, a ranking of those noises.
6. “SHA LA SHA LA LA LOW” (2:10)
5. “—SHA HA SHA LA LOW” (3:04)
Alright, yeah, technically these are both elongated ways of saying the word “shallow,” which Bradley and Gaga are very clearly far from (now). But I am treating both these instances like nonwords, because they’ve been stretched beyond intelligibility. That said, these two parts are the worst parts of the song.
4. “HA AH AHH AH” (2:28)
A mini version of the roar we already know so well, this “HA AH AHH AH” is a preview of a climax. It’s a bit of a groan, one that asks: “Can’t you feel the pain of being ignored for having a slightly larger nose?”
3. “AW” (2:31)
This is the last nonword Gaga sings before the most important nonwords of “Shallow.” It’s like an assist—Dwyane Wade lobbing a ball backward and peeling off with his arms jubilantly spread, knowing that the LeBron James of nonwords will finish off the pass with an unprecedented amount of power. It does its job.
2. “OH” (2:27)
You don’t know how close I was to ranking this no. 1. It’s unexpected, after having been conditioned for months to expect loud melodrama. This quiet, understated “oh” is the nonword that sweeps the listener off his or her feet, gently preparing them for the fireworks to come.
1. “HAAAAAAA AH AH AH, AHHH” (2:35)
Nothing is better or more important than this; it is now clear why Warner Bros. put this in the trailer. I will name my first son HAAAAAAA AH AH AH, AHHH. After I legally change my name to SHA HA SHA LA LOW.