Pop Culture

It’s Unlikely AI Music Will Go Away Any Time Soon, and That’s … Concerning

Pete and Timmy show of their rap "skills" on SNL.

We’ve already covered, at length, why AI art is not necessarily something to encourage, at least not at the rate it’s currently going. Although some of the programs may seem cool and harmless to screw around with, ultimately these sorts of things threaten the livelihoods of many talented people, via “art” that isn’t even that impressive since there’s no heart behind it, not to mention how many of them are built on art used without the owner’s permission. In my honest opinion, the desire to create art of any kind using AI is often based out of a need to compensate for a lack of natural artistic skill or talent, OR to just make some quick money while expending no effort—which is, again, incredibly detrimental to people who create for a living.

So when discussions surrounding AI music started to pop up, I—as a former musician who gave up trying to “make it” because of how difficult that pursuit already is—just wanted to bang my head against a wall. Like goddammit, really? This is the shit programmers are using their skills for? Cosplaying as artists?

In this case, someone went as far as to use AI to cosplay as their favorite artist, which is just as unsettling:

The implications of this kind of AI use could span an entire day’s worth of conversations surrounding ethics under capitalism, but I’m going to specifically focus on the music aspect for this article. Because what AI does is belittle the creative process for all artists, allowing anyone with the necessary tools to create hollow copies of the things they desire whenever they want. By doing this, artists aren’t getting paid, and if anything, they’re having money stolen from them. In this case, SZA is competing with a fake Ariana Grande, which is just so mind-bogglingly absurd that I might bang my head into a wall a second time.

But that’s just the recent news! A few months ago, we had to deal with this bullshit:

Even our boy Melon covered this, breaking down why the music itself is just pure and utter trash:

For those who aren’t in a video-watching mood, essentially these videos cover the AI rapper FN Meka, who got signed to Capitol records and was subsequently canned. Why was he canned? Because this shit sucks, and the only appeal is the novelty of it all. There’s no soul behind this! There’s nothing but the veneer of “rapper aesthetics” and popstardom! And regarding Meka itself, how is it at all permissible that a Black AI, who is programmed to rap the N-word, was made by ZERO Black people? Who are they trying to be in making this? What is the point? Why not just make some Pete-Davidson-Timothée-Chalamet-in-SNL type of character if that’s what they think rap is?

And look, if I felt like this trend were on its last legs, I wouldn’t get so heated about this subject. But more and more, we see corporations starting to lean away from genuine creative passion and more towards whatever will give them the most money with the least amount of taxation. AI won’t argue with you over a lack of pay. AI won’t make any charged political statements. AI will look however you want it to look, no matter the ethical quandaries. I have little faith that at least one or two major record labels won’t continue to be enticed by this in the near future.

Also, before anyone tries to lump the likes of Gorillaz or Vocaloid together with these clowns, let me be clear: Those kinds of projects and artists are very different. Gorillaz is a multimedia project made using human hands and voices, and while Vocaloid hinges on automated vocals, the songs are composed by living beings. Both are written and designed in their entirety by people with a creative vision. AI music is just code with some visuals. Comparing them to the likes of FN Meka would be like comparing real chocolate cake to chocolate cake made out of styrofoam.

Ultimately, more and more, we see artistic endeavors being co-opted by people who don’t understand what goes into making art, and what the tangible value of real, true art, is—and that truly concerns me. I don’t like the idea of mainstream creation becoming muddied by technology crafted by people who’ve never genuinely felt moved by anything worthwhile, and I especially don’t like the idea of even more talented musicians suddenly finding themselves out of work.

(featured image: SNL)

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