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Artificial intelligence creates ‘new’ songs by Amy Winehouse and Nirvana

A four-track album of so-called ‘lost tapes’ by the ‘27 Club’ has been created by a neural network, in a campaign for mental health and musicians

Cyber popstar and open source vocaloid Hatsune Miku shifted the parameters for music as we know it. Since Miku, there’s also been the emergence of AI-powered musicians, like singer-songwriter Yona. Now, a new AI project is generating so-called lost hits of the infamous ‘27 club’, from Amy Winehouse to Nirvana.

The project has zoned in on the ‘27 Club’ – Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, The Doors’ Jim Morrison – which is a term used to group artists and actors who passed away at age 27 due to addiction battles and mental health issues, The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club is a posthumous compilation album of four tracks, said to shed light on the mental health crisis among contemporary musicians. 

Over The Bridge is a Toronto-based organisation, which aims to diversify the conversation surrounding mental health in the music industry by providing an environment for members to feel comfortable, but also thrive in. The organisation has used an AI algorithm and trained it on isolated hooks, rhythms, melodies, and lyrics by the aforementioned artists. The programme studies the music, learning its compositions, and then translates them through a synthesiser to generate a new string of hooks, melodies, and rhythms. Following this process, an audio engineer took the AI-generated elements and composed the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club.

“As long as there’s been popular music, musicians and crews have struggled with mental health at a rate far exceeding the general adult population. And this issue hasn’t just been ignored. It’s been romanticized, by things like the 27 Club,” a statement from the organisation explained.

“To show the world what’s been lost to this mental health crisis, we’ve used artificial intelligence to create the album the 27 Club never had the chance to. Through this album, we’re encouraging more music industry insiders to get the mental health support they need, so they can continue making the music we all love for years to come. Because even AI will never replace the real thing.”

The album is made up of four songs – “The Roads Are Alive” mimics The Doors, “You’re Gonna Kill Me” is inspired by Jimi Hendrix, “Drowned in the Sun” is a take on Nirvana, and “Man, I Know” replicates Amy Winehouse and follows in the footsteps of YouTuber Funk Turkey who last year, generated a three-minute track in the style of Nirvana titled 'Smother,' using tropes of the legendary bands sound. 

According to the Over The Bridge, a survey highlighted that 68 per cent of musicians have experienced incidences of depression, while other studies show music industry workers are two times more likely to attempt suicide, which is double that than the general population. The impact of the pandemic has only served to exacerbate the poor mental health in the music industry, making musicians feel displaced with income streams almost completely destroyed overnight. 

Read more about how Amy Winehouse’s death will be commemorated in a special documentary to be broadcast on BBC Two later this year.