It’s almost a shame that Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” won the Academy Award for original song Sunday night.
Oh, it deserved the Oscar, all right: A pitch-perfect power ballad with just the right blend of feeling and drama, the tune from Bradley Cooper’s remake of “A Star Is Born” is a movie-music classic we’ll be singing for ages.
But now that “Shallow” has taken one of Hollywood’s biggest prizes — following a serious awards campaign that included performances at the Grammys and at Lady Gaga’s residency in Las Vegas — she and Cooper are less likely to show up to do their song at high-profile events.
And given their powerful rendition of “Shallow” on Sunday, I wouldn’t mind if these two kept turning up at political rallies or at basketball games on a weekly basis.
That’s how good they were at the Oscars, where the duo sang with an emotional intimacy that connected to both their characters in the movie and to the playful conspiracy theory that Gaga and Cooper are romantically involved in real life.
Gathered around a grand piano, the two locked eyes as they traded lines; Cooper then slid next to Gaga on the piano bench and they nestled their heads against one another, the camera right up close in a way that it hadn’t been for any of the night’s other musical performances.
The result was tender and believable but also as cleverly meme-able as the scene in “A Star Is Born” where Cooper rolls down a car window because he “just wanted to take another look” at Gaga and her sweetly goofy smile.
They both sounded great too — no surprise for Gaga, one of pop’s biggest voices, but not at all a sure thing for Cooper, who trained for months to get his voice in shape for the movie.
Accepting her Oscar for “Shallow” — which Lady Gaga cowrote with Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando — the singer looked lovingly at her costar in the audience and said, “Bradley, there is not a single person on the planet that could’ve sang this song with me but you.
“Thank you for believing in us.”
Now please go on tour, you two. (I just remembered that the full “A Star Is Born” soundtrack is eligible for next year’s Grammys, so maybe there’s hope after all.)
None of Sunday’s remaining performances held a Bic lighter to “Shallow,” though nearly everything was pretty solid — perhaps because everyone involved knew a host-less ceremony needed somebody to hold this thing together.
Queen and Adam Lambert opened the show with a one-two punch of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” — neither was nominated but both figure prominently in the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” — that had Glenn Close singing along in the front row.
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings did a lovely version of their understated country gem “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” from the Coen brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
The always-welcome Bette Midler turned up with her frequent collaborator Marc Shaiman on piano to do his lush “Mary Poppins Returns” ballad, “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” In the movie, Emily Blunt gives the song a prim but earnest reading; here, Midler went in a more sensual direction that reminded you how great an interpreter she is.
While we’re getting people on the road, let’s get the Divine Miss M back out there again as well.
And then there was Jennifer Hudson, who performed “I’ll Fight,” Diane Warren’s supersized anthem from “RBG,” the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Backed by a digital representation of the Supreme Court that made her look like she was standing on the court’s iconic steps, Hudson summoned plenty of emotion (especially when she raised a fist at the song’s conclusion).
But for once, her usually laser-guided pitch failed her; her big note didn’t land the way it was supposed to, and the uneasy look on Hudson’s face suggested she knew it.
One other disappointment? The lack of a performance by Kendrick Lamar and SZA, whose “All the Stars” from “Black Panther” was nominated for original song. (Ludwig Göransson, “Black Panther’s” inventive composer, won the prize for original score.)
Perhaps Lamar felt the Oscars don’t understand him any more than the Grammys, for which he also sat out last month.
But one wonders if the always fierce rapper watched Gaga’s performance, wishing he’d shown up to compete.