The Beatles AI Song Won’t Be the 1st of Its Kind

They were a groundbreaking band in the 1960s, but The Beatles’ AI song that Paul McCartney plans to release in 2023 will join a growing list of computer- and technology-aided music.

The Beatles weren’t just a groundbreaking band during their heyday. They were also archivists. The Fab Four turned down a massive reunion offer in the 1970s but kept fans satisfied in the decades since with compilation albums (the three Anthology releases), expanded reissues, and documentary films culled from old material in the vaults. The Beatles’ AI song, which Paul McCartney put together for a 2023 release, won’t be the first time musicians turned to artificial intelligence to create something new.

Paul McCartney announces Beatles AI song, which will be ‘the last record’ by the Fab Four

Artificial intelligence could be the wave of the future. Yet the visionary John Lennon couldn’t possibly have imagined it as he demoed songs before he died in 1980. The Beatles’ AI song needed 21st-century tech and John’s lo-fi archiving system to come to fruition.

Paul broke the news he planned to release “the last Beatles record” using AI technology. He planned to extract John’s voice from an old demo song recorded on a boombox (per the BBC). Hi-tech, meet low-tech.

The BBC reported the AI tune is likely “Now and Then,” a 1978 John demo song with a chorus and bare instrumentation but nothing else. The surviving Beatles — Paul, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison — considered including it on one of the Anthology records but quickly abandoned that idea. Tech will help the song see the light of day.

John had a love-hate relationship with Paul’s music (mostly the latter). He stormed out of the studio while recording “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” Like George and Ringo, he hated “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” and Paul’s solo song “Too Many People” pissed him off. Yet John knew a winner when he heard one and praised Paul’s Revolver tune “Here, There and Everywhere.” The only way we’ll know his thoughts on The Beatles’ AI song is if we ask ChatGPT to formulate a response.

Paul felt inspired to tackle “Now and Then” one more time after witnessing the power of AI during the making of Peter Jackson’s Get Back docuseries. Yet The Beatles won’t be the first band to use AI to create a song.

Other musicians who made AI songs before The Beatles

Their musical powers seemed inhuman, but The Beatles were of flesh and blood. They won’t be the first musical act to use 21st-century technology to create a song. It’s probably not surprising that a robot was a pioneer in that field.

Miquela, a human-like computer-generated entity (with more than 2.5 million Instagram followers), has released several songs. “Not Mine” was a pioneering AI song released in April 2017.

The human Brian Eno — the Roxy Music founder, pioneering ambient musician, and superstar producer of such bands as U2, Talking Heads, and Devo — beat Miquela to the punch by several months. His album Reflection, which plays infinitely and changes based on the time of day thanks to generative software (per Google Arts & Culture), landed in January 2017.

Taryn Southern, Japan’s Hatsune Miku voicebank software/AI-generated character, and the synthetic entities known as AIVA and Yona have also created music with minimal human assistance, per Google Arts & Culture.

The Beatles’ AI song will give die-hard Fab Four fans something to look forward to. Without 21st-century technology, we’d never get to hear John’s decades-old demo. Artificial intelligence helped create what will likely be the last Beatles song, but other artists used AI to make music long before Paul considered it.

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