One final song from The Beatles—including the voice of John Lennon—is being produced and released this year, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).
- In a Tuesday interview with BBC Radio 4, former Beatle Paul McCartney mentioned that AI is being used to finish a full-cast Beatles song.
- With John Lennon and George Harrison having passed away decades ago, the final song will be “extricating” the voice of the late Lennon from a poorly recorded demo track using AI to remove background noise.
- AI is also being used to de-age McCartney’s voice to sound younger.
- McCartney says that the sound has just finished production and will be released later this year.
- The song in question is likely the unreleased 1978 composition Now And Then, which was almost released as a reunion song in 1995, BBC reports.
Why It’s Important
AI is becoming more powerful every year, and this is creating opportunities for artistic creations as equally as it is creating ethical concerns. The use of AI and CGI technologies to recreate celebrities has proven to be a prickly area of concern for some, as companies like Disney and Warner Brothers have paid the families of deceased celebrities to allow companies to recreate their appearances using special effects.
A fully CGI rendition of actor Peter Cushing, who passed away in 1994, appeared in Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Disney regularly works with Ukrainian voice-cloning company Respeecher to digitally recreate actor James Earl Jones’ voice for Darth Vader using AI. A fully CGI rendition of Christopher Reeves’ Superman cameos in the new film The Flash. Worldwide XR attempted to produce an AI recreation of actor James Dean several years ago, while Disney recreated Walt Disney last year for a video presentation.
AI recreation of music voices has similar sticky implications, with general fears that recreating voices will allow deep fake technology to be abused. Such cases have already arisen, with AI generating recordings of the voices of loved ones and being used in telemarketing scams. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson threatened one developer with a lawsuit in 2019 when he used samples of his voice to produce an AI voice generator called “Not Jordan Peterson.”
Using recreations for the purpose of tributing a celebrity has proven less controversial. Actor Paul Walker’s character in Furious 7 was recreated partially in CGI for his final appearance following the actor’s tragic passing in 2013. The new Beatles song appears to be along the same lines, serving as a career tribute with one last new song 33 years after their most recent song was released.
McCartney acknowledged some of the implications of the technology in Tuesday’s interview, noting that it was “kind of scary.” He says there is a good side and a scary side to AI, and it will be worth seeing where the technology leads. “It’s something we’re all sort of tackling at the moment and trying to deal with.”