Looking for Meaning in “Shallow”


“Shallow,” a duet by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper from A Star is Born, was a hit song from the moment it debuted last year. So much so, that it’s still getting attention in 2019. This song won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance,1 and on March 4th, it took the number-one spot for Billboard’s Hot 100.2

Why does our culture love this song? Maybe it’s the stunning vocals that give chills. Or maybe it’s a deep, innate need that all of us feel, a need to get out of the shallow. Not familiar with the song? Take a look at the music video.

Stuck in the Shallow
Does life feel shallow? Generation Z and millennials (of which I am one) are often stereotyped as privileged and having so much in this world. We are able to pursue exciting careers where we can use our passion and skills, opportunities and blessings, technology and knowledge, unlike the generations before us.

But like the lyrics suggest, we’re still not happy. We still feel a void and we’re yearning to fill it. “Shallow” recognizes this feeling:

Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more?

In all the good times I find myself
Longing for change

We carry the world in our pocket, able to connect with everyone and pursue personal growth, yet sometimes it all feels shallow—school, careers, accomplishments, friendships, relationships—what’s the point?

Finding Depth in Relationships?
The song “Shallow” suggests that this yearning can be fulfilled in a relationship. In an interview, Lady Gaga said the song was “about wanting a deep connection and love.”3

As the lyrics go, we all want to “crash through” the superficial friendships and relationships in life and “dive into” a deep, authentic relationship where we’re fully known and fully loved—“where they can’t hurt us.”

Can you relate to this? I know I can. Whether it’s a romantic relationship or a genuine friendship, I long for community and deep, vulnerable, authentic connection.

And that’s natural, right? God created us for community. That’s why when Adam was alone in the garden, God said it was not good (Genesis 2:18). So God created Eve. Longing for a relationship is normal. Finding a deep connection and love is a good thing. But will a romantic relationship fill the void? Will it make you happy? Will it give you purpose and meaning in this life? The lyrics in “Shallow” seem to suggest that it will. And maybe it will, for a time. Perhaps our culture has mixed things up. While deep connection and love is a good thing, it still isn’t enough. It still won’t fill the innate void we all feel.

Seeking the Best Thing
C. S. Lewis said it so well: “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life.”4

Have we made romantic relationships—a good thing—into an ultimate thing? Yes, there’s special joy and happiness, and even purpose and meaning that comes with being fully known and fully loved by another person. But maybe that yearning and void in our hearts are there so that we’ll realize our greater purpose. They are there so that we will be drawn back to God to enjoy a deep, fulfilling relationship with him. They are there to remind all of us, time and again, that this is not our home, but that we can wait expectantly to live for eternity in full communion with our Creator.

  • Are you content with your life or do you feel a void? How do you usually try to fill your emptiness?
  • Why do movies, songs, and modern culture portray love and relationships as the “ultimate thing” in life?
  • How can you pursue human relationships while keeping your relationship with God as your focal point?

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  1. Ana Yglesias, “Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper Win Best Pop Duo/Group Performance 2019 GRAMMYs,” February 10, 2019, https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/lady-gaga-bradley-cooper-win-best-pop-duogroup-performance-2019-grammys.
  2. Tallie Spencer, “Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper’s ‘Shallow’ Hits No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100,” March 4, 2019, https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop/8500978/lady-gaga-bradley-cooper-shallow-number-one-billboard-hot-100-chart-fan-reaction.
  3. Tierney Bricker, “How Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper turned “Shallow” Into an Iconic Duet No One Saw Coming,” April 30, 2019, https://www.eonline.com/news/1011375/how-lady-gaga-and-bradley-cooper-turned-shallow-into-an-iconic-duet-no-one-saw-coming.
  4. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 1952), 108.