Come this May, IBM’s Watson and a few of its AI colleagues will add a new line on their resumes — professional music composers. That’s when YouTube maven Taryn Southern will release I AM AI, an album full of songs composed with the assistance of several different AI programs available today. This week, Southern is releasing the second single from the album, “Life Support,” along with a VR music video, just to go full future on us.
“Life Support” was composed with the help of Amper, an AI program that specializes in music composition. Just by telling Amper what kind of genre you want to use and what kind of mood you want to set, the program can produce music that humans can then edit, cut up, and alter to their liking. After all, AI programs like Amper aren’t being pitched as replacements for composers, but a tool that anyone can use to help make music faster, regardless of their level of expertise. Amper was also used on the first single from the album, “Break Free.”
Amper isn’t the only AI of its kind. Google Magenta is a Google-made AI platform specializing in art and music creation, and it’s also contributed to some of the tracks on I AM AI. Future singles from the album will feature AIVA, an AI program specializing in classical music, and IBM’s Watson.
AI isn’t taking the wheel, though. Southern herself is creating the melodies and lyrics, with the AI programs responsible for the backing tracks. Even then, some manual tinkering is required to get things just right, so professional musicians don’t have too much to worry about — in the short term, anyway.
The album both is and isn’t a change of pace for Southern. One of the very earliest YouTube stars (before being a YouTube star was a thing), she’s always been one to experiment with whatever the latest creative platforms in tech make possible. But, until now, she’s been known more for covers and comedy — perhaps her best known work was the “Hott4Hill” parody song during the 2008 elections, the Hillary Clinton answer to Obama girl.
I AM AI, on the other hand, is an original pop album, and to some extent it’s a concept album — not only does each song involve AI in the composition, the lyrics of each are about the relationship between humans and machines. “Life Support” seems to lend some irony to the project, with lyrics that suggest an exhaustion with the amount of technology in our lives.