In the short window of normalcy before the covid-19 lockdown, a British woman named Charlotte Awbery became an internet celebrity when a video of her singing Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” went viral overnight.
In February, Instagram comedian Kevin Freshwater challenged Awbery and several other London Underground riders to a “Finish the Lyrics” competition, using the Oscar-winning song from A Star Is Born as a jumping-off point. While the others failed to dazzle, Awbery belted “Shallow” with such ease that the impromptu performance almost seemed staged.
The videos received millions of views, and Awbery soon made the rounds in the British talk show circuit and garnered hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers before landing where all viral stars go to die: Ellen.
But Awbery ain’t dead yet. On Thursday, she released a music video for—of course—that cover of “Shallow.”
In the video, Awbery plays a worn-down stage performer and... that’s about it. There is a ballerina too, which is, uh, nice I suppose. It ends with her walking through a London underground tunnel similar to the one she was discovered in months prior. Touching!
I’ll admit: I never saw A Star Is Born. All I know is that Bradley Cooper plays a grizzled old rocker, Lady Gaga plays a promising new upstart, and they have a messy romance. Oh, and Bradley Cooper’s character pees in public some point? That’s pretty much the extent to my knowledge about that film. What I’m even less aware of is what exactly this song “Shallow” is about. I’ve admittedly never actually bothered to pay attention to anything beyond Gaga’s iconic wail, and I’m apparently not alone.
In the Jezebel Slack channel, my colleague Emily Alford said, “I don’t understand, are the shallows supposed to be a good or bad thing?” She added, “I was assuming the shallow end of the ocean/pool.”
“Shallows are where ships run aground... as in potentially dangerous, but not if navigated correctly,” said Features Editor Stassa Edwards. “[I] Think that’s the reference in the song.”
“They’re not boating though,” Alford challenged. “They are diving. And from swim team, I know that it is possible to dive into the shallow end.”
Senior writer Esther Wang had an altogether different interpretation of the song.
“‘Shallow’ is about sharks,” Wang said. “‘Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us.’ ‘They’ [are] sharks.”
Alford helpfully provided the Slack channel with the lyrics of the chorus:
I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now
“Yeah, that’s just, like, incoherent,” Edwards said.
“I guess they’re reckless going into the deep end,” Alford offered.
But what about that one line, “Are you happy in this modern world?” What does that have to do with swimming, boats, or bodies of water?
“The modern world is shallow, they’re getting away from that, out in the deep end,” Alford said. “People are superficial on the surface.”
“So they’re going to drown,” Edwards said.
“I contend that the song should be called ‘Deep,’” Alford said.
I’m not sure what the hell is going on here, but I’m going with Wang’s take: “Shallow” is about sharks.