Fans of Nirvana might do a double take when they hear ‘Drowned in the Sun’, a new song created by artificial intelligence that simulates the songwriting of the late grunge legend Kurt Cobain.
Engineers sent Nirvana’s back catalog to Google’s AI program, Magenta, which analyzed it for recurring components and then developed an entirely new track.
However, the voice on ‘Drowned in the Sun’ is 100 percent human – provided by Eric Hogan, lead singer of the Atlanta Nirvana cover band Nevermind.
The song is just one release from The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, a project developed by the non-profit organization Over the Bridge, which highlights mental health issues in the music industry.
Other AI-generated ‘lost’ songs are inspired by Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse, who, like Cobain, died at the age of 27.
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Over the Bridge used Google’s AI, Magenta, to generate a ‘new’ Nirvana song ‘Drowned in the Sun’. The system was given dozens of Nirvana numbers, stripped down to their individual elements and entered one by one
According to Over the bridge71 percent of musicians report anxiety and panic attacks, and 68 percent have experienced depression.
Suicide attempts are twice as common in the music industry as they are among the general public.
This issue has not only been ignored. It’s been romanticized by things like the 27 Club – a group of musicians whose lives were all lost when they were only 27 years old, ‘the group said in a statement.
Over The Bridge hopes that sharing these ‘new’ works will encourage more music industry insiders to get the mental health care they need, ‘because even AI will never replace the real thing’.
Besides ‘Drowned in the Sun’, the Lost ties of the 27 Club setlist includes ‘The Roads are Alive’, inspired by the doors; You’re Gonna Kill Me, made with Jimi Hendrix’s catalog; and ‘Man I Know’, Magenta’s version of an Amy Winehouse song.
Twenty to thirty songs from each artist were entered into the program, which analyzed every facet from lyrics and vocal melodies to note choices and guitar riffs.
The songs had to be stripped down to their individual elements and entered one at a time, Over The Bridge board member Sean O’Connor told me. Rolling stone
The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club aims to raise awareness about mental health issues in the music industry with AI-created tracks inspired by artists who passed away at the age of 27. It includes ‘You’re Gonna Kill Me,’ made using Jimi Hendrix’s catalog and ‘The Roads are Alive,’ inspired by The Doors
‘If you go through whole songs, [the program] really starts to get confused about what [it’s] should sound, ”he said.
‘Drowned in the sun’ chorus
I do not care.
I feel one.
Drowned in the sun now.
I feel one.
Drowned in the sun.
Google launched Magenta in 2016 using TensorFlow, the company’s massive open-source software library focused on deep learning applications, with the goal of training machines to make music and art.
AI is notorious for having trouble expressing emotions, be it funny knock-knock jokes or heartfelt Valentine’s Day messages.
But Cobain’s lyrics were often inscrutable, which made Magenta’s lyrics for ‘Drowned in the Sun’ feel authentic.
It was a bit harder to get hold of the instrumental tracks – Cobain had no preference for easily recognizable riffs like Morrison or Hendrix.
“You tended to get a wall of sound,” O’Connor told Rolling Stone of the Nirvana-inspired output.
“There’s less of a recognizable thread running through all of their songs to give you this big piece of catalog that the machine could just learn from and create something new.”
Hogan, who started Nevermind six years ago, says’ Drowned in the Sun ‘feels like a Nirvana song’ but [it’s] not so accurate to where someone will get a cease-fire letter. ‘
“If you look at the last quote-unquote Nirvana release, which was, ‘You Know You’re Right,’ this has the same kind of vibe, ” he told Rolling Stone. Kurt would just write whatever he felt like writing. And if he liked it, it was a Nirvana song. ‘
Mimicking Nirvana’s instrumentals proved difficult, producers said, as Kurt Cobain was not in favor of easily identifiable riffs like Morrison or Hendrix.
I can hear certain things in the arrangement like, ‘OK, that’s kind of an In Utero vibe here or a Nevermind vibe here,’ he added. “I really understood the AI.”
There will no doubt be fans of these artists who think the project is sacrilege, but Over the Bridge is not making any money from the AI-generated songs.
All donations will go towards helping musicians and music industry insiders who are struggling with mental health.
And music generated by AI is nothing new: Sony released it in 2016 ‘Daddy’s car’, an original song distilled from the Beatles’ oeuvre.
The following year, researchers created a ‘Bot Dylan’ computer that could write its own folk music.
In 2020, film student Elis Weiss used Calamity AI, a machine learning model that can produce written content, to create a ‘new’ song for the hit musical Hamilton.
The AI brought back a full four-verse song, in the style of the Broadway hit.
However, the system added a few extras: The famous patriot stated that Eliza had given him syphilis, for example, and announced that Hillary Clinton was his new lover.