It’s certainly been a big year for Gaga. The 32-year old pop singer followed an iconic Super Bowl Halftime Show Performance last year to now become an Oscar favorite for her critically-acclaimed performance in the Warner Bros. musical film A Star is Born, also starring the director of the film Bradley Cooper. On top of this, Gaga will at the end of 2018 begin a two-year Las Vegas residency at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, reported to be worth a cool $75 million, according to reports in The Guardian. You’d think that with so much going on, she’d possibly be taking a break from the spotlight for a few months, but the successes just keep piling up.
It was recently revealed that her soundtrack for A Star is Born, which also features vocals from Cooper, has debuted at No.1 on the Billboard Charts, and looks set to be one of the most popular soundtrack releases of the decade. It has clocked up hundreds of thousands in album sales and means that Gaga now has the most number one albums for a female artist of all time.
Let’s take a quick look at this astonishing success, and see how other iconic movie soundtracks match up.
An Iconic Soundtrack is Born
One of the major appeals of the ASIB soundtrack is that it is, of course, Lady Gaga, who is one of the most popular musicians in history and can rely on a dedicated fanbase of millions to keep her creations at the top of the charts. That being said, this release marks a significant departure from what many fans might usually expect from a Gaga album.
Gone are the synthpop beats and techno rhythms, with the album putting her firmly in the category of country singer, a journey which began with the release of her album Joanne a couple of years earlier. It of course still has plenty of Gaga touches and contains contributions from long-time collaborators such as Mike Snow, Mark Ronson, and DJ White Shadow.
The soundtrack differs markedly from the songs of the 1976 Barbara Streisand version of the film, a decidedly rock music album which won an Academy Award for “Best Original Song”. The Gaga soundtrack racked up 231,000 album sales in the first week of release, making it the biggest release for a musical soundtrack since 2015, when the Fifty Shades of Grey album achieved sales of 285,000 units. Whether this album will earn its way into the film soundtrack hall of fame remains to be seen.
Most Successful Soundtracks in History
Movie soundtracks and scores, the latter of which refer to original music composed specifically for the film, have long been a big money maker for actors and studios alike. The OST for the 1992 film The Bodyguard, which includes the legendary Whitney Houston song “I Will Always Love You” remains the most successful of all time, selling 17 million copies to date. The film and soundtrack have since spawned countless reproductions, including covers by Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, and LeAnn Rimes. It has also spawned a highly-successful West End musical, and a line of merchandise including t-shirts and umbrellas.
As well as musical soundtracks, scores have also proven to be smash hits with the listening public. The musical score for the hit HBO TV show Game of Thrones has spawned seven albums, some of which have received an Emmy for “Outstanding Musical Score”, and have sold millions of copies. Scores rarely contain vocals, but the orchestral melodies of GoT, including the iconic main title theme, are still beloved by millions. The score has also seen success in the form of a smash-hit live orchestra show sponsored by HBO and continues to feature on countless Game of Thrones products. The main tunes from the show can now be heard on the hugely popular Telltale video game series, the Forbidden Planet merchandise store in NYC, and even on Betway’s Game of Thrones slot game, which is officially branded and includes characters and soundbites from the franchise. A good soundtrack is clearly one that can remain an enduring cultural force many years after release.
The 2013 animated Disney film Frozen is one of the most successful soundtracks in history too, reaching over 4 million album sales and bagging an Academy Award for Best Original Song, in the form of Idina Menzel’s chart-topper “Let it Go”. The film and soundtrack is also responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise sales, a number of spin-off films such as Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, and even a hugely popular LEGO set, featuring all of the characters. Whether Gaga’s ASIB soundtrack will enjoy the same level of enduring success as these ones remains to be seen, but the early numbers are certainly looking promising, and if all goes well, we could very well be looking forward to orchestral performances of “Shallow” and celebrity cover versions to boot.
A Soundtrack Revival?
Some of the biggest album releases of the past few years have indeed been soundtracks and scores, prompting some comment in the media that we’re undergoing something of a renaissance of the genre. The soundtracks for two big 2018 film releases, The Black Panther and The Greatest Showman, both topped 1 million album sales, the kinds of numbers that soundtrack producers had long thought disappeared.
Whatever the cause might be, it’s clear that Gaga has chosen a very good time to release a soundtrack of her very own.