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Resurrecting the Beatles: Should we revive singers from the grave for their 'final' record?
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Resurrecting the Beatles: Should we revive singers from the grave for their ‘final’ record?

Introduction

The music industry is experiencing a revolution with the emergence of AI voices, holograms, and posthumous releases. But where should we draw the line? From AI-generated vocal sounds to the resurrection of long-departed singers, the boundaries of creativity and ethics are being tested.

The Allure of AI Music

AI music has become synonymous with “deepfake” digitally generated vocal sounds. Whether it’s imitating contemporary stars or bringing back legends from the grave, the possibilities are both exciting and unsettling. Recent examples include an AI-generated track featuring a fake Drake and The Weeknd, as well as a digital duet between David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. However, AI music also extends to the restoration of recordings made by singers during their lifetime, as seen in The Beatles’ upcoming “final record.”

The Beatles’ Last Hurrah

The Beatles have been no strangers to posthumous releases, with their hit song “Free as a Bird” featuring John Lennon’s vocals becoming an international sensation in 1995. But now, with advancements in technology, their latest record will feature a demo by John Lennon from 1978 called “Now and Then.” Using AI, the band was able to extract Lennon’s voice from a low-quality cassette recording and create a pure version for their final album.

The Emotional Connection

There is a strong emotional connection between fans and their favourite singers, which fuels the desire for posthumous releases. The idea of Lennon reuniting with McCartney or witnessing holograms of iconic artists like Tupac and Maria Callas on stage evokes both excitement and unease. However, there is also an “ick factor” associated with sentimentality in posthumous projects, exemplified by Barry Manilow’s album featuring duets with deceased icons.

The Moral Dilemma

Bringing singers back from the dead raises moral questions. Artists have their creative ideals, and it’s impossible to know what they would have wanted after their passing. “Deepfake” tracks suggest that singers can be manipulated to serve industry whims and viral gimmicks, blurring the line between authenticity and exploitation. While some artists embrace AI technology, others have explicitly expressed their opposition to posthumous releases.

The Sensitive Approach

The most successful posthumous releases are often curated by those who genuinely knew and loved the artists. The upcoming Sparklehorse album, completed by Mark Linkous’s family, exemplifies this approach. Similarly, the album “The Endless Coloured Ways” pays tribute to Nick Drake’s songs, overseen by individuals closely connected to his estate. These projects demonstrate the importance of maintaining an emotional and creative bond with the late singer.

Conclusion

The rise of AI music presents both opportunities and challenges for the music industry. As technology advances, the boundaries between authenticity and artificiality become blurred. Ultimately, it is up to the listeners to judge whether these posthumous releases evoke genuine emotions or feel contrived. As we navigate this new era, it is crucial to consider the ethical implications and honour the creative legacies of our favourite artists.

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