AI-generated music is a bourgeoning and fraught topic, with artists either vocally opposing even the faintest hint of it, or some (like Grimes) more or less embracing it completely. Now, Paul McCartney seems to be on the ‘pro’ train, at least in part, since he has created a “new” Beatles song using AI and will be releasing it to the public later this year.
The song includes John Lennon vocals, pulled from an old demo recording, and the BBC report that first revealed the news says it’s probably from ‘Now and Then,’ a 1978 Lennon recording which was recorded to cassette from Lennon’s living room in NYC just before his death. The inspiration from the song came from Peter Jackson’s documentary ‘Get Back,’ McCartney told the BBC, since for that process a custom AI system was used to separate the vocals of the various Beatles members from background noise, enabling high-quality reproduction.
There was a prior attempt to record this track with the surviving Beatles in around 1995, but George Harrison objected midway through the process because of the poor quality of the Lennon track. The AI-powered track separation and cleanup process has restored the vocals to a place where McCartney said it was possible to mix the track cleanly as if they were recorded fresh for the purpose.
McCartney still showed some skepticism — but not outright dismissal — when it came to AI generating music meant to sound like original John Lennon recordings essentially from whole cloth – “it’s kind of scary but exciting, because it’s the future,” he told the BBC about when people have shown him versions of Lennon singing his songs generated by AI.
“We’ll just have to see where that leads,” he added.