Let me take you down 'Cause I'm going to strawberry fields Nothing is real...
It’s all doom and gloom when it comes to artificial intelligence these days.
Advances continue to worry experts, with the threat of AI systems outsmarting humans intensifying, chiefly due to the rise of a new generation of highly capable AI chatbots and software such as ChatGPT and Midjourney.
Artists have also weighed in, such as Nick Cave or Lee Fields, who have expressed their concerns when it comes to AI-generated songwriting, rightly underlining that we should be keeping a close eye on algorithmically generated tunes and the replications which cannot equal genuine human effort or replace true artistic creativity.
However, it has taken AI to reunite one of the world’s most influential bands...
Here Comes The AI
When The Beatles parted ways acrimoniously over 50 years ago, it left the music world in mourning.
Now, artificial intelligence has ‘reunited’ the Fab Four by creating new Beatles songs which sound as if they had been recorded during their ten-year creative tenure.
The creator behind these new tracks, Dae Lims, has taken several songs by surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and used artificial intelligence to add the missing voices of the other band members, John Lennon and George Harrison.
One AI cover of Paul McCartney 2013 single ‘New’, features McCartney’s de-aged vocals, as well as a bridge “sung” by the late John Lennon.
“I’m sobbing! This is so beautiful!!!” wrote a listener in a YouTube comment.
Equally impressive is a version of 'Grow Old With Me', one of the last songs penned by Lennon, which was posthumously released after his 1980 murder and recently remade by Dae Lims.
With enhanced audio quality and harmonized backing vocals that evoke the Liverpudlian rockers' heyday, the song sounds alarmingly impressive. To the untrained ear, it almost sounds like this song could have been an outtake from their final album, 1970’s 'Let It Be'.
However, there’s a litigation storm a brewing...
While My AI Gently Weeps
The creator of these videos has had several of his videos removed from his platform due to complaints from rights holders.
At the time of writing, Dae Lims has made most of his videos private and only two Beatles songs remain: ‘Grow Old With Me’, written by John Lennon, and ‘It Don't Come Easy’, by Ringo Starr.
It’s hardly surprising, as the ethical and legal ramifications are sizeable. For the time being, this kind of creation still requires some serious AI knowhow, but it's only a matter of time before more simplified tools are made available to the general public; this could pose serious copyright headaches.
If artists are paid for their vocal license, then everything’s being done by the book. However, what happens when the artists in question are no longer with us? What happens then in terms of copyright, and how can this be moderated?
Or can AI-generated music loophole its way into bypassing rights holders and avoiding traditional industry standards?
It can be argued that fan-created tributes are just that, and not intended to be monetized, and AI creators have in the past stated it falls under “fair use”, invoking a 2015 court ruling that said Google was permitted to archive the world's books because it wasn't competing with sellers and was displaying only snippets.
While many listeners (and a few renegade pop stars, including singer Grimes, who has made her voice available for anyone to use) suggest that we need to get used to a world where we’re hearing both genuine creations and cloned versions, there are some that are crying foul.
French streaming service Deezer is one of them.
The streaming service has already announced that it has developed a technology that allows it to identify and possibly remove songs that clone pop stars’ voices. These “fake songs” can apparently now be detected; songs like ‘Heart On My Sleeve’, which was “sung” by Drake and The Weeknd.
In April, Universal Music successfully petitioned streaming services to remove the song, saying that "the training of generative AI using our artists' music" was "a violation of copyright law".
However, that hasn’t stopped the track from popping up on various platforms. And, somewhat ironically, Deezer’s new detection tool is based on artificial intelligence.
Takes a wolf to catch a wolf, and all that.
So, is AI threatening to destroy music and are these recent Beatles songs history-rewriting travesties? Or are they simply harmless tributes from fans using available software and making the most of technological advances?
Jury’s out. So far, the remaining Beatles (or other rights holders of the the band’s legacy) haven’t commented. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, however, you better listen to the songs quick sharp. They might not be there for long.