We made ChatGPT write a song for us We kept hearing that Artificial Intelligence is a threat to the creative arts. So we put ChatGPT to the test to see if it can, indeed, write a decent song.

We made ChatGPT write a song for us

We made ChatGPT write a song for us

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We kept hearing that Artificial Intelligence is a threat to the creative arts. So we put ChatGPT to the test to see if it can, indeed, write a decent song.

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

When Pop Culture Happy Hour host Stephen Thompson watched the Oscars back in March, he had a particularly harsh comment about a Diane Warren song that was nominated.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APPLAUSE")

SOFIA CARSON: (Singing) Recognize who you are. Sometimes...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR PODCAST)

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: There is no way this song would have been nominated if it hadn't been written by Diane Warren. She is beloved in Hollywood. She spends most of her time writing songs for movies. The Oscars love her for a reason. But this song is so generic. It could have been written by ChatGPT. If you watch the Oscars, time your snack break for when they perform it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APPLAUSE")

CARSON: (Singing) Give yourself some applause. You deserve it.

RASCOE: That is definitely a hot, hot take, coming in hot.

THOMPSON: I'm a rascal.

RASCOE: (Laughter). So, you know, that got us to wondering if he had a point. What would a ChatGPT song sound like? We asked Stephen to play around with the AI tool to see how it performed. And boy, did we get our money's worth. Just take a listen at what Steven did.

THOMPSON: Well, I just typed in the words, write a song in the style of Diane Warren, and I got a song that looks a lot like a Diane Warren song but a little bit more of a ballad. Sample lyric - I'm staring out my window, thinking about the way we used to be. I remember how we laughed and loved. Every single moment was so sweet.

I think Diane Warren would come up with something a little more artful. Once you get into the chorus though - 'cause love don't come easy, and it sure don't last forever. But I'll keep holding on till we find our way together. Now, if you put a little mustard on that, you can get yourself into a power ballad pretty easily.

RASCOE: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THOMPSON: (Singing) Love don't come easy.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: (Singing) And it sure don't last forever. But I'll keep holding - oh, I lost my key completely.

RASCOE: (Singing) Keep holding on...

THOMPSON: (Singing) Till we find our way together...

RASCOE: OK.

THOMPSON: Now, the important thing to note here is I have applied no actual talent to this.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: It is remarkable how passable some of these lyrics are, I think especially when you give it the guideline of, write it in the style of a certain artist.

RASCOE: When you look at, like, Jay-Z or a Kendrick Lamar or a Beyonce, there is something that they bring. It's their experience. It's them being on the cusp of what's hot and new and fresh. And they're also able to, like, do new things that I feel like it's hard for AI to replicate.

THOMPSON: So this is what is called the uncanny valley.

RASCOE: It's the uncanny - yes.

THOMPSON: The uncanny valley - the difference between reality and the...

RASCOE: (Laughter) Yes.

THOMPSON: ...Virtual world's ability to recreate reality.

RASCOE: Yes.

THOMPSON: That is what is still missing.

RASCOE: I don't feel like AI can really recreate a song like "H To The Izzo."

THOMPSON: Right.

RASCOE: Right? Because when Jay-Z said crack's in his palm, and he was watching the long arm of the law - right?

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

RASCOE: AI has never lived that life.

THOMPSON: Right? Yeah.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: What - all they have to go on is what he has done in the past.

RASCOE: Yeah.

THOMPSON: And you're also touching on the difference between an artist who uses a lot of formulas...

RASCOE: Yes.

THOMPSON: ...And an artist who is constantly trying to say new things...

RASCOE: Trying to say new things. Yes.

THOMPSON: ...In new ways. And you mentioned Beyonce. You look at the songwriting credits on Beyonce's "Renaissance," and there's, like, 100 of them.

RASCOE: Yeah.

THOMPSON: And so you can't necessarily have a computer synthesize...

RASCOE: No.

THOMPSON: ...A hundred different artists together to kind of create that sound.

RASCOE: You did Diane Warren. You also asked them about writing a Beyonce song. What did that sound like?

THOMPSON: Imagine - do you know the song that Beyonce wrote for the movie "King Richard"?

RASCOE: Yes.

THOMPSON: It's called "Be Alive." And it is much more kind of a little bit closer to, I would say, generic uplift.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BE ALIVE")

BEYONCE: (Singing) The path was never paved with gold - no.

THOMPSON: When I typed, write a song about defiance in the style of Beyonce, I got - well, I'll go right to the chorus.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THOMPSON: I'm a rebel, a fighter, a force to be reckoned with. I'm Beyonce, and I don't back down.

RASCOE: Mmm-mmm.

THOMPSON: Mmm-mmm.

RASCOE: Mmm-mmm.

THOMPSON: I'll keep on pushing, keep on climbing higher. I'm unstoppable, and I won't be silenced. First of all, does not rhyme.

RASCOE: Doesn't rhyme (laughter).

THOMPSON: Second of all, Beyonce occasionally refers to herself in the third person.

RASCOE: But not really.

THOMPSON: But not really.

RASCOE: Not really.

THOMPSON: Where ChatGPT is most applicable to this exercise is with artists who work within very, very contained formulas. And I think that's why I often keep going back to that criticism when music feels really generic. I think it's fair to say that this technology is going to be used for a lot of depressing purposes, and it may be replacing some of those songwriters. I think we can agree Beyonce has nothing to worry about. Diane Warren - we'll see.

RASCOE: That's Pop Culture Happy Hour host Stephen Thompson. Thank you so much, Stephen.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Do you think that they could do a Lin-Manuel?

THOMPSON: I mean, we can try.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THOMPSON: (Rapping) He escaped to freedom, but the fight wasn't done. He spoke out against slavery and won hearts one by one.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: That is bad. That is disrespectful.

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