Johnny Cash’s Taylor Swift Cover Predicts the Boring Future of AI Music

When Texas-based copywriter Dustin Ballard launched a canopy of Aqua’s 1997 Europop hit “Barbie Girl” this summer time utilizing an AI-generated model of Johnny Cash’s voice, he was shocked by its reception. “I actually expected more of a backlash,” he says. Earlier this fall, when he adopted up with AI Johnny Cash singing Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” the suggestions was unexpectedly constructive as soon as once more. “This is hauntingly beautiful,” the highest remark reads. Media protection skewed glowing. “It absolutely slaps,” Futurism wrote.

This was not exactly the meant response. Riling folks up with bizarre mashups is Ballard’s factor; he describes the purpose of his musical undertaking, “There I Ruined It,” as “ruining as many beloved songs as possible.” In essence, he’s a novelty song-collager going viral for bits like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” recreated with Super Marios Bros. sound results, and a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” as a bluegrass tune. Imagine if Girl Talk made an album impressed by Weird Al Yankovic however didn’t strive his finest. That’s the vibe. Ballard has been doing this since 2020—it’s a pandemic boredom facet undertaking that blew up, not his predominant supply of earnings—and lately, a few of his greatest hits have used AI.

That alone isn’t notably stunning. Artificial intelligence instruments are more and more commonplace within the music enterprise, and absurdly puffed up. Just final week, the Beatles launched what’s being billed as their final new music, “Now and Then,” made attainable by AI instruments that improved sound high quality on vocals from a decades-old John Lennon demo cassette.

When artists use machine studying as a a part of manufacturing, it doesn’t are inclined to ruffle feathers. But one other sort of AI-inflected music does: when folks use AI instruments to imitate voices of musical artists, as with “Heart on My Sleeve,” the music launched final summer time by an nameless producer referred to as Ghostwriter977. It’s essentially the most distinguished instance of a brand new mini-genre referred to as Fake Drake, as its vocals had been generated to sound just like the Canadian rapper (it additionally featured AI vocals from Drake’s compatriot, The Weeknd). To be clear: Lots of individuals appreciated this music. Still, trade backlash was appreciable. Above all else, this style nettles the report labels, who view it as an encroachment on their property. Universal Music Group efficiently urged streamers like Spotify and Apple to drag “Heart on My Sleeve,” calling it a copyright violation. (There are, after all, conspiracies that UMG and Drake are secretly behind the entire thing.) In October, UMG and different main labels sued the amply-funded AI startup Anthropic for distributing copyrighted lyrics. Ice Cube inspired Drake to sue, then described voice-cloning artists with out their permission as “evil and demonic” on X. Last week, The Hollywood Reporter ran a chunk through which Dolly Parton referred to as the know-how “the mark of the beast.”

So far, although, there’s no comparable ire for the slew of Johnny Cash covers. Ballard is one in every of many individuals placing AI Cash concoctions on-line; they’re throughout YouTube, the place Cash is made to sing Zach Bryan, Coldplay, Simon and Garfunkel, and a model of the blockbuster duet “Shallow” from A Star Is Born through which Lady Gaga sings with Cash as an alternative of Bradley Cooper. (Important be aware: The uploader took the time to edit the picture on YouTube to point out Cash’s face nestled towards Gaga’s as an alternative of Cooper.)

No Cash-related AI lawsuits but, both. Josh Matas, the supervisor of Cash’s property, says he’s holding a detailed eye on the songs popping out, and the bigger surge of AI music. “I’m pretty much monitoring on a day-to-day basis,” he says.