In context: What can AI do? It might be easier to say what it can't do. We've seen it create art, fake photos, play video games better than pros, write stories, program computers, carry on conversations, and mimic a human voice. And these are just a few examples that have become commonplace recently.
Now AI is getting credit for helping create one more Beatles song. On Tuesday, iconic musician Sir Paul McCartney announced that a "final" Beatles song would release later this year. McCartney didn't reveal the tune's name but mentioned that an AI was used to recover a "decades-old" tape John Lennon recorded before his murder in 1980. Some speculate it could be an unreleased song called "Now and Then," recorded in 1978.
Lennon had made several tapes before his death, which his widow Yoko Ono gave to McCartney in the early 1990s. The song was rejected from The Beatles Anthology series in 1995 because it was in much poorer shape than other recordings the band remastered. The late George Harrison called Lennon's voice track for Now and Then "rubbish." So the band abandoned it, but it remained one of the only songs McCartney has continually ruminated on re-recording.
It's not the first time a song has been released posthumously. Lost tracks have surfaced many times from many artists. Technology has been able to reproduce or clean up analog recordings and Hollywood tricks have even allowed dead artists to perform lost songs in front of live audiences. Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable" duet (above) with her deceased father, Nat King Cole, is a touching and memorable example of modern technology bringing back the dead.
It's not even the first time a song from John Lennon has been cleaned up and released after his death. According to the BCC, Lennon recorded Free as a Bird and Real Love into a cassette tape "boombox" placed atop his piano sometime before December 8, 1980. McCartney later remastered these songs and released them in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
It's unclear exactly how much of the new recording will be touched by AI. It might be more than just a remaster, though. McCartney said the AI "extricated" John's voice. So it sounds like the vocals were isolated and extracted with McCartney and perhaps Ringo Starr laying down fresh instrumental and vocal tracks to back Lennon's actual voice. We'll have to wait and see when it comes out later this year.