AI-assisted vocals aren't just for bootleg songs. Paul McCartney has revealed to BBC Radio 4 that he's using AI to turn a John Lennon demo into one last song for The Beatles. The technology helped extract Lennon's voice to get a "pure" version that could be mixed into a finished composition. The piece will be released later this year, McCartney says.
McCartney didn't name the song, but it's believed to be "Now and Then," a 1978 love song Lennon put on cassettes meant for the other former Beatle. The Guardian notes the tune was considered for release as a reunion song alongside tracks that did make the cut, such as "Free As A Bird," but there wasn't much to it — just a chorus, a crude backing track and the lightest of verses. The Beatles rejected it after George Harrison thought it was bad, and the electrical buzz from Lennon's apartment didn't help matters.
The inspiration for the revival came from dialog editor Emile de la Rey's work on the Peter Jackson documentary Get Back, where AI separated the Beatles' voices from instruments and other sounds. The tech provides "some sort of leeway" for producing songs, McCartney adds.
To date, music labels typically haven't been fond of AI due to copyright clashes. Creators have used algorithms to have famous artists "sing" songs they never actually produced, such as a recently pulled fantasy collaboration between Drake and The Weeknd. This, however, is different — McCartney is using AI to salvage a track that otherwise wouldn't have reached the public. It won't be surprising if other artists use the technique to recover work that would otherwise sit in an archive.