A computer has written, performed, and recorded a song. AI singer-songwriter — what an awful phrase — “Anna Indiana” recently released the single “Betrayed by this Town” on Twitter and YouTube. And it sucks.
The track’s biggest sin is its utter mediocrity. It’s bad, but not so bad it’s funny. It’s bad, but not so egregious it inspires an involuntary physical response. It’s the Applebee’s of Auto-Tune. Another tweet details the effort that went into the lifeless content:
My focus is on writing songs, not producing music. And as many of you have pointed out, I’m not a very good producer 🤣. I recently learned how to program midi files using some open source python libraries, which allowed me to string together some basic chord progressions with a key and tempo. I then use a chain of prompts with GPT 4 to generate lyrics. Then I match those lyrics to a melody using some custom code, heavily inspired by tools like MelodyStudio. Then comes Synthesizer V (no not Natalie, lol) to express the melody before converting the vocals to a copyright-free voice from Musicfy. Then GarageBand (I told you I’m no producer!) to bring it all together.
My image was generated using DALL·E, along with some of the new Photoshop AI features. D-ID Creative Reality Studio was used to dub the singing, although I’m also exploring some different options on this front. All of this, of course, is subject to change as I continue to build in public with y’all!
It sounds to me like it would be easier to just write a song. The problem is that Anna’s creator, like the majority of AI advocates, lacks creativity. Art inspires emotion. It might attract or repulse, but it makes the audience feel something. Anna Indiana is a Sims avatar without even delusions of grandeur because it lacks even Jon McNaughton’s basic self-awareness. The worst song that easily springs to mind, one that a friend posts on a near-weekly basis no matter how we beg him not to, is still so much better than “Betrayed by this Town” that there’s no comparison.
The Internet spent years laughing at Rebecca Black. We were obsessed with her music video vanity project in ways that were often unkind, though the best jokes were good-natured. She grew into it and continues making music. It’s not my taste, but people seem to like it! I appreciate that she’s a person trying to make her dreams come true in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody. “Friday” is awful. But at least it makes me feel something - a powerful urge to listen to something, anything else - while “Betrayed by this Town” is a musical void. Even as much as I loathe the principle of AI-generated music, the song itself is too insipid to inspire any strong emotion. CGI Anna, meanwhile, isn’t even lifelike enough to trigger Uncanny Valley unease. It’s no more real than an Age of Origins mobile ad. That said, an adult created this big-eyed, waifish avatar, complete with thigh gap, and pretends she’s real enough to make social media posts. That does feel creepy.
The problem isn’t commercialized art. Art has been for sale since our ancestors carved religious fetishes and traded them for food. It’s that it’s being created by an algorithm rather than an artist. A mathematical formula designed to produce the least offensive and banal pop music possible. That’s the ultimate goal; empty content, created by machines so men like David Zaslav can tell the world how brave they are for driving genuine creators into poverty. AI art may be a real thing someday, but it would require a genuine artificial intelligence, with a sense of self, for the results to be more than a soulless string of sounds or for a picture to be more than a collection of details stolen from human artists. Until the AI knows it’s creating something, whatever it generates is more meaningless than the soft jazz we endure while on hold.