Slate: The Music Club, 2018

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My dear slow burners,

A kind suggestion, courtesy of 2018’s favorite grungily tragic rock hero: Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die. When Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine first sings his Jason Isbell–penned signature ballad in A Star Is Born: Gaga Edition, he offers it to a quietly swooning drag queen in the bar where he’s just met Ally, his soulmate and undoing, as he waits for her to take off her makeup and begin rearranging his life. For Maine, it’s long past time: His addictions to various chemicals, and to the toxic rock ’n’ roll mythologies that keep him on the road playing music he seems to despise, prove stronger than the sensuality and enthusiasm that Ally embodies. Yet, gazing into the eyes of the self-possessed queen Emerald, Cooper’s Maine clearly accepts the polymorphous, femme-driven future the drag bar represents; it’s one of the movie’s sharpest intertextual moments. It was Cooper’s exquisitely gentle rendition of the song that lingered in my mind after I left the theater, and it felt like a blessing: Official music culture ushering in a new era, one that’s grounded in gender equality, instead of old jokes about little schoolgirls and dirty whores, and in explorations of desire and identity that mirror the more fluid attitudes of Gen Z.

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