“A Grotesque Mockery” – Is AI-generated Music a Step Too Far?

You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen the headline – you might even have tried it. Whatever your
experience with it, ChatGPT is unquestionably the hottest thing on the internet right now.

damaged sheet music resting on piano keys in a dimly lit room

ChatGPT and AI in Music Writing

So, what is it? A brain in a jar somewhere? A supercomputer? An all-knowing oracle?

None of the above.

Rather than blather on about technical stuff we don’t really understand, we asked ChatGPT
to explain itself (…themself?), in its own words;

“I am ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI. As an AI language model,
my purpose is to generate human-like responses to a wide range of natural language
queries and tasks. I have been trained on a vast amount of textual data and have the ability
to understand and respond to natural language inputs. Whether you need assistance with
research, writing, or other language-related tasks, I am here to help!”

In other words, it is a conversational language simulator. It can also do other tasks like data
sorting, and idea generation – and it can write “creatively”. Why the quote marks?

You’ll see.

If you haven’t used it, it’s loads of fun and it’s really smart. It can do things like write pro-level
emails that you’re worried about sending. It can even write recipes for people with dietary
restrictions – but make sure you double check the results if it’s being done for an allergy!

The weird stuff and the controversy come from creative applications. The AI has been
trained on poetry, books, lyrics, scripts, interviews – all human things. So, when you ask it to
make something in the style of somebody, it’s kind of… plagiarising. Also – it doesn’t really
know what it’s doing with emotional input and output, because it has no feelings.

Often, the results are frankly TERRIBLE.

We tried it out for ourselves, and asked it to write song lyrics in the style of a Chainsmokers
track.

ChatGPT has entered the chat…
Prompt: Hello! Can you write me some song lyrics in the Chainsmokers’ style please?
ChatGPT: Sure! Here are some lyrics rewritten in the style of a Chainsmokers song:

Verse 1:
We’re lost in the moment, lights all around
Our hearts are racing, feet on the ground
The bass is pumping, the beat’s so strong
We can’t help but move to the DJ’s song

Pre-Chorus:
We came to this place, to feel alive
Let go of our worries, let them all slide
The outside world fades away
As we get lost in the Chainsmokers’ sway

Chorus:
We are the night, we are the crowd
Living life, screaming loud
We raise our hands up to the sky
We’re feeling high, so alive

Verse 2:
The crowd is jumping, the music’s hot
We’re lost in the moment, our hearts are caught
The beat is pounding, it’s in our veins
We’re alive in the Chainsmokers’ domain

Pre-Chorus:
We came to this place, to feel alive
Let go of our worries, let them all slide
The outside world fades away
As we get lost in the Chainsmokers’ sway

Chorus:
We are the night, we are the crowd
Living life, screaming loud
We raise our hands up to the sky
We’re feeling high, so alive

Bridge:
In this moment, nothing else exists
We’re the ones who choose to resist
The stress and chaos of our lives
We’;re living, we’re free, we thrive

Chorus:
We are the night, we are the crowd
Living life, screaming loud
We raise our hands up to the sky
We’re feeling high, so alive

Outro:
The night is ours, we’;re never alone
The Chainsmokers, the beat, the tone
We’ll dance until the break of dawn
This is our moment, our party goes on.

Okay, it did the job we asked. And the fact that a computer can do this at all is seriously
impressive. But let’s be real – these lyrics suck. They are just… Well, look at them!

The beat is pounding, it’s in our veins
We’re alive in the Chainsmokers’ domain

This is very low effort stuff – a 3/10, at best. And whatever you do to try and massage it into
shape, like make it more mysterious or absurd, or more emotional, it stays roughly the same.

Not long ago, Nick Cave responded to another ChatGPT user’s result for a song written in
his style. He called it “a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human”.

Art, he says, has to be earned. It is earned through the struggle of lived experience. AI does
not have lived experience, and until it does, its output will never resonate with us meatbags.

This whole thing tosses up some wild ideas about music generation that are both exciting
and terrifying.

Making music with ZERO human input

Right now, you can make a whole song with nearly zero input from a human being.

AIs can generate sheet music in the style of composers or artists. An app can convert the
sheet music to MIDI. ChatGPT can write the lyrics – and a program like respeecher can sing
them.

It’s all happening, right now. But is it any good? Is it even art?

Is this art – or the death of it?

This feels weird to us.

Music is a very human thing. We spent aeons evolving to perfect rhythm, feel, tone, chords,
emotional expression…

Now, we’ve reached the point where machines are making it for us, and the results are so
disconnected from that evolution that they’re jarring and uncomfortable, and often do not
meet our tastes.

We’d compare it to muzak, or corporate graffiti, or paint by numbers; simultaneously
inoffensive and offensive. Background noise that, if you focused on it, would be unbearable.
Like radio static, slowly rising in volume until it’s all you can hear.

AI music is regurgitated, rehashed, reworks. A mishmash of our aeons of evolved musical
prowess, packaged and sold as a monthly subscription fee.

Proponents argue that ‘it’s no different to a human emulating their favourite artist! How do
you think we learn how to make music?! We are just machine learning models made of
meat!’.

We say, let this lot have their AI-generated music, if they enjoy it. There’s room for all kinds
of creativity and taste is personal. But we reckon this will remain squarely in the “elevator
music” category for most people. AI could make the process better – in things like mixing, or
editing, where busywork kills creativity – but it can’t “do music”.

Why? Because Nick Cave is right;
“…Songs arise out of suffering, by which I mean they are predicated upon the complex,
internal human struggle of creation and, well, as far as I know, algorithms don’t feel. Data
doesn’t suffer. ChatGPT has no inner being, it has been nowhere, it has endured nothing, it
has not had the audacity to reach beyond its limitations, and hence it doesn’t have the
capacity for a shared transcendent experience, as it has no limitations from which to
transcend. ChatGPT’s melancholy role is that it is destined to imitate and can never have an
authentic human experience, no matter how devalued and inconsequential the human
experience may in time become.

What makes a great song great is not its close resemblance to a recognizable work. Writing
a good song is not mimicry, or replication, or pastiche, it is the opposite. It is an act of self-
murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past…”

Read his full response to ChatGPT’s lyrics here, which includes ChatGPT’s output – it’s
pretty great reading.

What about music PR in the AI age?

Well, AI is probably going to do a lot of jobs that people do, including PR. But it’s not a
creative power – and a lot of PR is creative. We can already see that current AIs can’t do
creativity, at least not in a way humans can enjoy – so for now, PRs will probably limit using
chatbots to do things like basic press release outlines, or research, or sorting: admin stuff.

For everything else… It’s still gotta be human-made.

Urban Rebel – Human-generated Music PR

Urban Rebel does music PR for the most exciting emerging talent and established acts.
Contact us: call +44 (0) 161 298 6650 or send your message to [email protected].