Paul McCartney announced Tuesday that AI had been used to help create what he called the “final Beatles record,” featuring the voice of John Lennon. The new song, which is still untitled, will be released later this year, the world famous singer told BBC Radio in an interview.
According to McCartney, the song is based on an unfinished demo that Lennon, who died in 1980, recorded sometime in the 1970s. He said that he used artificial intelligence to isolate Lennon’s voice from the demo and complete the song.
The idea to reconstruct the demo using AI was inspired by Peter Jackson’s eight-hour documentary, Get Back. It used custom-made AI to recognize the Beatles’ voices and separate them from background noise for the documentary.
Separating Lennon’s voice
“We were able to use that kind of thing [AI] when Peter Jackson did the film ‘Get Back’ where it was us making the Let It Be album,” McCartney told the BBC Radio 4 Today program.
“[Jackson] was able to extricate John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette. We had John’s voice and a piano and he could separate them with AI. They tell the machine: ‘That is a voice. This is a guitar. Lose the guitar.’ And he did that,” he said.
“So when we came to make what will be the last Beatles record – it was a demo that John had – that we worked on and we just finished it up, it will be released this year,” McCartney continued.
“We were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI so then we could mix the record as you would normally do. It gives you some sort of leeway.”
Paul McCartney did not reveal the name of this new and last Beatles song he is working on with AI. But it is likely to be the 1978 Lennon composition “Now and Then,” the BBC reports.
The demo was one of several songs on cassettes labeled “For Paul” that John Lennon made shortly before his death on December 8, 1980. Yoko Ono, the widow of Lennon, later gave the cassettes to McCartney.
Lennon recorded the song on a boombox in his New York apartment. The lyrics, which begin with “I know it’s true, it’s all because of you / And if I make it through, it’s all because of you,” are synonymous with the apologetic love songs Lennon wrote later in his career, per the report.
McCartney: AI ‘kind of scary’
During the interview, McCartney, one of three surviving founding members of the Beatles, also expressed concern about some ways in which AI has been used.
“There is a good side to it and then a scary side, and we will just have to see where that leads,” said the 80-year old.
“I don’t hear that much because I’m not on the internet that much, but people will say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s a track where you know, John’s singing one of my songs’, and it isn’t, it’s just AI, you know?” he added.
"When we came to make what will be the last Beatles record… We were able to get John's voice through AI."
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) June 13, 2023
In March, McCartney revealed that he was unsure if he wanted to continue his music career after the Beatles officially disbanded in 1970. He said he felt “forced into taking a risk” after the band broke up, and didn’t know if he could make it on his own.
Eventually, the famous English singer decided to continue making music. McCartney’s collaboration with Lennon comes as controversy over the use of AI-generated music continues to grow.
In recent months, there have been several high-profile cases of AI music being passed off as the work of real artists. A fake song featuring AI-generated vocals of Drake and The Weeknd went viral in April before it was removed from streaming services like Spotify.
The incidents have raised concerns about the ethics of using AI to create music, and about the potential for AI to deceive listeners, observers say. Grimes, however, said she would share 50% of profits on “any successful AI-generated song” using her voice.