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‘It’s the screams of the damned!’ The eerie AI world of deepfake music

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November 09, 2020 at 12:32PM

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Artificial intelligence is being used to create new songs seemingly performed by Frank Sinatra and other dead stars. ‘Deepfakes’ are cute tricks – but they could change pop for ever

‘It’s Christmas time! It’s hot tub time!” sings Frank Sinatra. At least, it sounds like him. With an easy swing, cheery bonhomie, and understated brass and string flourishes, this could just about pass as some long lost Sinatra demo. Even the voice – that rich tone once described as “all legato and regrets” – is eerily familiar, even if it does lurch between keys and, at times, sounds as if it was recorded at the bottom of a swimming pool.

The song in question not a genuine track, but a convincing fake created by “research and deployment company” OpenAI, whose Jukebox project uses artificial intelligence to generate music, complete with lyrics, in a variety of genres and artist styles. Along with Sinatra, they’ve done what are known as “deepfakes” of Katy Perry, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, 2Pac, Céline Dion and more. Having trained the model using 1.2m songs scraped from the web, complete with the corresponding lyrics and metadata, it can output raw audio several minutes long based on whatever you feed it. Input, say, Queen or Dolly Parton or Mozart, and you’ll get an approximation out the other end.

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