May 17, 2021

Would You Listen to AI-Generated Blur Music?

 Would You Listen to AI-Generated Blur Music? AI blur music, blur music commentary, blur music parklife, blur news article

In January of this year, the mental health charity, Over the Bridge, released an album called Lost Tapes of the 27 Club. As most music fans are aware, the 27 Club is that tragic group of legends – Hendrix, Cobain, Winehouse, Morrison – who died at that age, robbing the world of their mercurial talents. 

So, these lost tapes, what were they? Tracks that someone found in an attic? Reproduced songs that never made it to general release? Nope. Over the Bridge used AI (artificial intelligence) to make the tracks. It was, of course, a worthy cause for a mental health charity. But, boy, does it pose some questions for the music industry, including ethical ones. 

First, a quick overview of how it worked. Over the Bridge worked with Google’s Magenta AI. It fed the AI with samples of lyrics and music from the artists. After a while, the AI begins to learn the sound of the musicians and then produces its own versions. Producers selected the best tracks, and, hey presto, you have a new Nirvana song. 

Over the Bridge pulled off an impressive feat

You can find out more about the project here. But if we are to give our quick appraisal, it would be this: It’s impressive to hear an AI-generated song that really does sound like The Doors or Hendrix, but it is certainly not the finished article. However, you would be a fool to assume that they will not perfect this sooner rather than later. 

So, to the main question? Would you listen to an AI version of Blur? Say you really missed the Britpop, Parklife-era of Blur? Would you happily buy an AI-generated album to take you back to that cheeky and raw 90s sound of the band? For some, it might seem exciting. For others, it could be close to sacrilegious. 

But before dismissing it out of hand, it’s worth arguing that technology quickly changes our perceptions, even our ethics. In the 90s, the likes of Sean Parker (Napster) and the legendary gaming software developers like Microgaming were changing our perceptions of everything from music to gambling online. Later, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg were changing how we communicate. Today, we have the likes of Decentraland changing our perceptions of reality. 

Trends can change, and we might accept AI music

The point is that what is seen as unworkable now might seem different in 10 years’ time. Online dating used to be considered a niche thing, almost taboo, but it is so universal today that we almost forget how we felt about it a decade. Why not the same for AI-generated music?

There are, of course, many arguments that might be made. For instance, doesn’t the idea of AI regenerating artists’ music poses a problem for creativity? Bands like Blur and Radiohead, for example, are constantly pushing the boundaries, looking for a new sound. Damon Alburn moved on from Parklife, just as Thom Yorke moved on from The Bends. Most fans loved going on that journey of change with them. 

Would You Listen to AI-Generated Blur Music? AI blur music, blur music commentary, blur music parklife, blur news article

Of course, it’s worth remembering that we are only at the beginning of this process. But you can bet that it is going to become an important debate. Similar to casting older actors with CGI (Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, for example), there is a debate over not what we gain, but what we might lose. What Over the Bridge did was interesting and impressive, but we should be wary of what comes next.