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Artificial intelligence programs are starting to make pop. Will anyone listen?

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It’s been a decade since Drake and The Weeknd last performed together on a record: Drake appeared on “Live For,” a song from The Weeknd’s Malicious debut album, earth kiss. As hip-hop and R&B stars out of Toronto, Drake and The Weeknd were close collaborators, but their careers diverged when The Weeknd signed to Republic Records and Killing OVOXO’s common fan base dream. So this month it was a surprise to hear a fateful new song, “Heart on My Sleeve,” featuring Drake and The Weeknd, produced by Metro Boomin — but not really, because the song was composed by an AI.

The real producer of the song, a mysterious figure currently known as the Ghostwriter, first shared “Heart on My Sleeve” on TikTok. He’s so far withheld any explanation of exactly how he composed the song, so it’s unclear if the vocal performances on “Heart on My Sleeve” were entirely AI-generated or simply modified to make the “real” performer sound like Drake and The Weeknd. (You can hear examples of both approaches in other ways Unequivocal cases.)

It’s worth assessing the quality of “heart on my sleeve” before we wrestle with the supposedly miserable cyber implications of this sort of thing. The song is shockingly fake composed with careful consideration of the artists’ personalities and tendencies. Drake and The Weeknd star in some recent romantic dramas involving Justin Bieber, Hailey Bieber, and Selena Gomez. The verses maintain some tics: Drake finishes each of his bars with a guttural discharge (“ay,” “yeah”) and Weekend initially mimics Drake’s flow but then becomes looser in his verse (although my colleague Alisa Bereznak notes some shyness). uncharacteristically high pitched). The beat is much less convincing, though: Metro Boomin wouldn’t normally use a piano melody in a retro, repetitive style.

Overall, I rate Heart on My Sleeve highly as an acceptable imitation. But I consider it a little less so as a song. There is now a cottage industry of content creators They come out with their own AI impersonations Famous artists include – Drake, Kanye West, Travis Scott – though none of the others I’ve met so far are as artistically impressive or technologically menacing as “Heart on My Sleeve.”

The recent surge in the development of AI applications excites some people and terrifies others. Technology pundits and AI skeptics have spent the past several months — since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November, effectively — agonizing over the potential implications for humanity. Some of these critics pose the great civilizational questions of post-apocalyptic science fiction. What if HAL 9000? What if Skynet? Others are more concerned with the economic impact. What if recent advances in artificial intelligence accelerate the rate of job loss due to automation? Of course, as a critic, I tend to be interested in the cultural dimension. What if AI causes writers and artists to be excluded from the working class, and what if this is not only a labor problem, but a cultural problem as well? What if we gradually lost the ability to distinguish between sights, sounds, and ideas produced by humans and similar content produced by software? What if “Heart on My Sleeve,” or something like that, tops the Hot 100? This seems like a point of no return.

Universal Music Group, which has Drake, The Weeknd, and Metro Boomin under recording contracts, has spent the past several days working to purge “Heart on My Sleeve” from every last corner of the internet. (That’s why the song isn’t linked here.) The company released a remarkably charged statement calling on “all stakeholders in the music ecosystem” to declare their allegiance either “to the side of artists, fans, and human creative expression, or to the side of deepfakes, fraud, and denying artists their due compensation.” But you must read the entire statement. It begins with UMG acknowledging the role of cutting-edge technology in empowering musicians and acknowledging its own efforts to develop music-related AI. So much for the sanctity of “creative human expression”!

The music industry has been recruiting specialists and developing this type of technology for a while. Those efforts culminated this past August with Capitol Records He is famous for signing his first-ever rapper, FN Meka, But then she dropped it in the face of backlash over the supposed racial insensitivity of his style and style. This backlash highlighted the big blind spots of AI: the cultural context of genres and the biographical context of artists and songs. VTubers like Meka can do a lot—They can take on distinct personalities, they can build fanbases from scratch, but they can’t (yet) reliably negotiate the complex racial dynamics of hip-hop, and they certainly can’t (yet) date Selena Gomez. Artificial intelligence is essentially a black box of statistics and linguistics. It could obviously improve its simulations of some of these, but its output is likely to remain a distinct subset of art and culture. His own kind, if you will.

It’s a little too late to reverse the incorporation of computers, at the expense of more traditional instruments, into modern music, and the frightful rush to draw some bright lines in the incorporation of AI is far too arbitrary. The difference between art and technology isn’t as stark as suggested in the rambunctious portions of this press release from UMG. It’s more of a spectrum – though admittedly it seems to push futuristic extremes. Some of the concern in this context is less about the future of music and more about the present or the past two decades. Someone who hates Drake, hates trap, hates hip-hop, or hates pop music—someone who resents the computerization of modern music in general—is likely to hear “Heart on My Sleeve” as vindication of the many infamous complaints about audio overdrive. in production. If labels, artists, and fans were so intent on cutting the premium for natural talent, what were we expecting? If a product equipped with modern software can recreate the voices of two of the world’s most famous artists, how good they really are, and who’s to say that AI should not rival it, if not completely replace it. ? Maybe we will get the culture we deserve.

But it’s still too early to be completely pessimistic. Music and technology have a charged relationship in some areas and a beautiful interaction in others. Ghostwriter may have just launched the annihilation of music as an art and profession, in a sure sign of humanity’s darker days in the age of artificial intelligence. Or perhaps the Ghostwriter, who appears to be a young musician himself, is pioneering a new genre with new instruments—a tale as old as music itself.

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Muhammad
Muhammad
. "Professional creator. Lifelong thinker. Reader. Beer buff. Troublemaker. Evil problem solver."

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