There’s a lot of hubbub in the news and online about the “new Beatles song” that dropped yesterday. As a life-long semi-pro musician, this headline hits a sour note with me. Hah! See what I did there?
Anyway, my thoughts…
This song was one of many demos Lennon did after the band broke up. This is key. While we don’t know for sure, it’s unlikely he said to himself “This would be a great Beatles song. I should ring up the lads.” when composing the tune.
Lennon’s widow “gave”1 the demo tapes to the remaining Beatles years after his tragic murder and even longer after the band had officially broke up. The tape Yoko turned over is purported to contain at least three of Lennon’s demos2, not just this one song.
Paul, George, and Ringo messed around with the recording, laying down all new tracks for the song. I’m sure they did this with the other demo songs too3. But that’s all it is; they messed around with a demo of their deceased former bandmate. Lennon was not there to collaborate as a band member. Releasing a song as a “band” means all members have provided input on the final product. This fact alone makes the song not a Beatles song.
Fast forward 25 years. Now we have machine learning that can digitally enhance anyone’s voice, and even reproduce a near perfect representation of vocals from unrelated sample files. This is how Lennon’s lyrics were included in the song – by digitally reproducing and enhancing something that was barely audible to begin with. Ultimately, these are not Lennon’s true vocals. They are a damn good representation of the man’s voice enhanced by computers4.
The use of AI bodes poorly for musicians who create their art. Will we start seeing demos of other bands which were never intended to see the light of day getting released by record labels as “the lost album of (band name here)”? I bet we will. We already are. As a result, the soul of recorded music is lost and it’s just become about the money for record labels.
The list of credits for this song is long. But in the end, it’s still just a well (over?) produced John Lennon demo and not a Beatles recording. He is the only “songwriter” who I believe should be credited.
I have a hard time believing Yoko simply “gave” anything to the remaining Beatles. My suspicion is there had to be money involved somehow… ↩︎
“Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were recorded as demos by Lennon before his death in 1980 and completed by the surviving Beatles in 1995 while Harrison was still alive. ↩︎
Of course they did since “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were released as Beatles songs, which I honestly was not aware of until now. ↩︎
This is what chaps my hide the most about this song being released. Using AI to digitally restore a vocal is even worse that using auto-tune. ↩︎