Back to the….. Past?

I do not know much about the Beatles except for the fact that there are only two members of the foursome who are still alive. However, imagine my surprise, waking up on November 2 and opening up Twitter only to see the Beatles trending for releasing a new song – and not a re-recorded song or a fully recorded unreleased song, but a song largely produced in 2023 with the help of AI.

The song is appropriately and cleverly named “Now and Then.” According to the song’s Wikipedia page, when John Lennon passed away, Yoko Ono gave his unreleased tapes to his band members. Some of the songs on these tapes have since been released, except one of them hadn’t been because the recording was too rough for the remaining band members to work around, so it had been abandoned. That is until 2023. Using AI, the remaining Beatles were able to use sound separation to clear up the old recording and make it more usable for release. From what I understand, sound separation is essentially using AI to separate the different sounds within a piece of audio and it makes it easier to clean up an audio (I think). 

Realistically, I do not think this song is the most insane use of AI in the music industry, but I found this really interesting anyway because even though AI is marketed as this innovative machine that is supposed to bring us to the future, in a lot of ways, it tends to bring us into the past. This blast to the past isn’t unique to the music industry, even in the film industry, there has been a rise of using AI-deep fakes to bring actors back into movies posthumously.

Nevertheless, I think this whole situation kind of begs the question – at what point is AI holding us back? At what point do we completely stop trying to invent something new and just revert to relying on AI to bring back the past?

But I’m not done. In terms of the problematic cases of AI versus the music industry, while researching this topic, I ran across an article that mentioned how someone used AI to create a version of “Heart on My Sleeve” by Drake and the Weeknd. The person used AI vocal filters to imitate the voices of these two Canadian singers without their permission. If that wasn’t bad enough, apparently the song is eligible for a Grammy. I am not sure of the merits of this rumour, but it does bring up a valid concern about AI-overreach. Not only was this done without the consent of the artists, but it is being given legitimacy by it potentially becoming a Grammy nominee – which is especially terrible considering how the Weeknd was snubbed by the Grammy’s in 2021 for not receiving any nominations for his album “After Hours”. Not to mention, what happens to the profits that are made from this song? Would Drake and the Weeknd get the profits or would the person who used their likeness without their consent benefit from it?

Personally, I think AI is cool and all, but it is advancing at an alarming pace, leading to the development of unprecedented problems with unprecedented solutions. I think the use of AI needs to be reevaluated and considered more practically for it to become an asset as opposed to a liability.


Wikipedia page:

AI in the film industry:

AI debate:

One response to “Back to the….. Past?”

  1. J

    On a similar note, what do you think of actors giving permission to have AI replicate their voice? James Earl Jones last year gave permission to have his voice be simulated by AI for future Star Wars projects. However, Jones did give consent for his voice to be reproduce, so it is distinguishable the from Drake and the Weeknd fabrication.

    I share your concern when you say “At what point do we completely stop trying to invent something new and just revert to relying on AI to bring back the past?” It does seem like an attempt to capitalize on past success. This is in turns discourages new creation. Instead of relying on the character of Dark Vader for another 50 years, maybe they should come up with new characters. I don’t blame because entirely because it could be a safer investment to build up what they already have. It’s an unfortunate situation where it does not pay to be creative, but rathe to be repetitive.