My mind is blown.
I was minding my own business this past Sunday morning when an alert from YouTube showed up on my phone. Normally, I ignore them. This one, however, came from Paul McCartney’s YouTube channel, and it suggested I watch the video called “New (ft. John Lennon).”
As a lifelong Beatles and McCartney fan, I was more than a little aware of the song “New,” a jaunty McCartney tune from the album of the same name. I really enjoyed the album and the song, but I knew that this particular song came out in 2013, more than 30 years after John Lennon’s death. Needless to say, I fired up the YouTube app and loaded up the song.
The harpsichord arpeggio intro began, and the song was off. When McCartney’s vocal came in, I immediately noticed that it sounded as if someone had taken nearly 40 years of age off of Sir Paul’s voice. As he recorded “New” when he was 70 years old, his voice showed a few signs of his age. This “New” version sounded like McCartney sang it in 1967.
As the song progressed to the first “middle-eight” section, the vocal was no longer that of Paul McCartney. The voice coming out of the speakers was now John. Lennon’s. Voice. It sounded real, as if McCartney and Lennon had secretly recorded this song during the Revolver album sessions.
If that wasn’t unsettling enough, the very next verse sounded as if George Harrison had also returned from the grave to join in with Paul. (George passed in 2001.) The Beatles fan in me was amazed at how much the 21st Century McCartney song now sounded like it was an outtake from 1967 featuring three out of four Beatles on vocals (it wasn’t difficult to imagine Ringo on the drums).
For those of us who love the Beatles, hearing this song reimagined as a Beatles song is a bit emotional. When John’s voice comes in on the bridge, and then George starts singing the second verse, it’s like the Fab Four are creating new music and are young all over again. As one commenter put it, “Absolutely brilliant, great work. It’s like the Beatles are back.” After repeated listens, I prefer this version to the original — obviously for sentimental reasons.
The person responsible for this creation is a YouTuber named Dae Lims. He used artificial intelligence (AI) to recreate the song as a Beatles number. He also chose a John Lennon song from 1980, “Grow Old With Me,” and used AI to add Paul’s voice singing the bridge. The result is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Dae Lims intended these AI recreations to be tributes; Universal Music Group saw it differently and had YouTube remove the original posting of “New.” I imagine that Paul McCartney must have liked the recreation as well, as the Beatles’ version of “New” is now available on Paul’s YouTube channel.
Although these recreations are benign, some rightfully wonder how far and just where this technology will take us. Will we begin hearing new songs from our favorite deceased musical artists? Will there be new Frank Sinatra albums? New works from Tom Petty, perhaps? If the creations are totally new compositions as opposed to remakes, do any of the financial proceeds go to the estates or recording companies of the original voices? What if the estate or recording company of the original voice doesn’t want any new AI songs in the image of the original voice? And how will we distinguish the artificial from the real when the technology allows almost anything?
There are far more questions than answers at this point. The only two things I can say with any certainty are that it’s going to be interesting to watch how these issues play out over the next several years, and it was nothing short of wonderful to hear the Beatles singing together again … as if we were “New.”
– John’s Perpetual Island Tour stops every Monday at Boondocks, Wednesday at Brutus Seafood, and Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing. Check out John’s music anywhere you stream or download your music! Or point your browser to: johnbartus.hearnow.com