The Beatles Return With a New Song in 2023 Thanks to Remarkable Audio Technology
When I pressed play on the brand new Beatles song “Now and Then” that unexpectedly dropped last week, it stirred up profound emotions I haven’t felt listening to music in a long time. The unlikely story behind this posthumous Beatles reunion left me awestruck at how far music technology has come.
As hosts Ryan Withrow and Jonathan Boyd unpacked on Episode 32 of The Future of Music Podcast, this surprise single tackles huge questions about artistry and ethics in the age of AI. It gave me chills thinking of the doors this opens up, for better or worse.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the conversations this music sparks since I heard this episode. If you find this Beatles tech tale as mind-boggling as I did, you need to hear Ryan and Jonathan’s insightful breakdown.
Keep reading to find out why this musical moment has enormous implications for pop culture forever…
How Did The Beatles Release New Music in 2023?
First – how is this even possible? Weren’t John, George and Ringo finished making songs together decades ago?
As Ryan revealed, the genesis of this posthumous reunion stems back to a 1994 session. Surviving Beatles Paul, George, and Ringo had attempted early on to complete an unfinished piano/vocal demo from John Lennon dating back to the 1970s.
They ran into obstacles because of the quality of John’s voice from the cassette. So this tantalizing fragment collected dust for years, seeming like it would never become a proper Beatles song.
Enter Peter Jackson – director of legendary film series like Lord of the Rings – in 2021. While making his Beatles documentary Get Back, Jackson leveraged new audio processing software his team developed specifically for the project.
Their proprietary machine learning and AI techniques unlocked the holy grail: isolating John’s scruffy tape into a clean vocal track. Suddenly the band had everything needed to transform his demo into a fully-fledged Beatles song.
Still wrapping my head around this? To recap:
- A vintage John Lennon song sketch from 1970 resurfaces in the 1990s
- The band fails to turn this into a song due to vocal separation issues
- In 2021 Peter Jackson created audio filtering software for a Beatles documentary
- This new tech cleanly extracts John’s voice alone from the poor-quality cassette
- Armored with pristine vocals, The Beatles finally finish the song nearly 50 years later with modern overdubs
Wild, right? Now bask in the time capsule that is “Now and Then”!
Press Play On This Historic Beatles Reunion
I couldn’t wait to hear how this unlikely reboot turned out myself – and I got goosebumps instantly. The song does not feel like a modern fake or imitation. You can literally hear John Lennon singing new words nobody has ever heard him utter before. There’s a halo of nostalgia blended with freshness since Paul, Ringo, and George share the experience with us.
The mood really transports you back to the early 70’s Beatlemania with its wistful piano, swirling strings, soulful horns, and classic rhythm guitar jangle. As Jonathan observed, it sounds moody and reflective compared to their early pop days – befitting aging legends looking back. Lyrically, it’s almost like John knew this future collaboration would happen one day as he sings:
“You said it all, you said it all when you said good day, now what else is there for me to say? The news is old, I’m getting old, let me sleep, let me sleep.”
The accompanying video heightens the goosebumps. It blends actual footage of Paul and Ringo today playing their instruments with CGI models of their young Beatles selves jamming alongside John and George. This digital resurrection of the Fab Four transports any fan back in time.
Some fans on social media did complain about the CGI feeling “lifeless”. Yet for me, there’s an immense nostalgia seeing the band reunited. The real Paul and Ringo investment must trigger greater sentiment too. Watching them collaborating with the animated ghosts of their fallen partners brings closure.
However, they made this footage does not change my sheer awe of hearing new Beatles material recorded over 50 years after their breakup out of thin air. Talk about making history!
How “Now and Then” Forever Changes Music With AI
While this blast-from-the-past jam offers comfort for Beatles fans, it also provokes profound questions about the future. What does AI mean for music and art when software can create the illusion of deceased icons performing?
Jonathan mused that tools enabling projects like this are only in it’s adolescence. He envisions a near future when music rights holders perpetually generate new songs and albums from legendary artists using AI. Imagine Hendrix dropping surprise singles today or Whitney Houston going on world hologram tours!
On the ethics, Ryan noted the tricky line the song balances between actual Beatles input and what an AI might mimic. The value comes from having Paul and Ringo contribute those tangible human elements. This melding of real and simulated performances feels like a template for resurrecting other bands later down the road using only AI.
In fact, the song faced early backlash over possibly manipulating recordings before the band clarified everything came from authentic tapes and sessions. Audiences seem very sensitive to an “uncanny valley” with overly computerized recreations.
The fact this Beatles reunion sparked accusations about fakery shows the coming confusion AI poses for music authenticity. Some artists already refuse to license their work for posthumous AI projects. As the tech advances more convincingly, I foresee lots of controversy around ethics and consent.
But if voices from the past can be restored this competently, who’s to say AI won’t improve original compositions? Could we have unpublished Beethoven symphonies one day? Jonathan half-joked about buying up catalogs of legacy artists to be AI content farms!
Takeaways From This Beatles AI Moment
When all’s said and done, I found myself smiling ear-to-ear hearing John, Paul George, and Ringo’s spirits harmonizing again. But the larger questions left me unsettled about AI’s slippery slope.
I walked away from Ryan and Jonathan’s podcast with these key points:
- Music AI like the software used here will only get exponentially more advanced year-to-year
- We will see many more legacy artists digitally resurrected for new music and visual performances
- Audiences will remain divided on embracing computerized renditions over authenticity
- Asset owners could perpetually generate “new” content from deceased musicians for profit
- Intellectual property and consent laws will likely lag behind these technologies
As the hosts laughed about – KISS may never be allowed to retire with the rise of musical AI!
Jokes aside, I do worry ideas like consent and ownership risk being exploited without thoughtful regulation around this space. How many deceased musicians might have forbidden using their talents like puppets post-mortem? Even living artists face new hard questions.
And yet…the kid inside me overflowed hearing a titanic force like The Beatles improbably together again for one last ride. Maybe there is a place for technology to revive expired legends to enrich culture sometimes.
Can innovation genuinely enhance art or creativity here? Does everything require the human touch? I don’t think these questions posed by “Now and Then” have universally right answers.
But like Ryan said – it’s amazing to just witness history unfolding in my lifetime. Music tech can be wonderful and terrifying at the same time. This hyped hyperreal Beatles reunion hints at a thrilling albeit turbulent musical future.
Tune Into The Future of Music Podcast For More
To dig deeper into the radical musical possibilities of AI, make sure to listen to this episode on your favorite podcast platform.
The Future of Music Podcast keeps you informed on innovation’s cutting edge when it comes to technology and the industry. The expanding catalog offers tons of mind-expanding ideas.
Every week Ryan and Jonathan showcase revolutionary music tech or business strategies for using tools like automation. They decode complex concepts into digestible bites that anyone can apply to their art or career.
Both hosts bring decades of hands-on musical experience from the trenches alongside a passion for tech futurism. This gives their analysis a credible balance blending realism and vision.
Whether you want to leverage new songwriting AI yourself or simply follow where tech disruption goes, like, subscribe, and comment to The Future of Music podcast on your favorite platform.
This episode merits my strongest endorsement for its insightful exploration of the interplay between human creativity and technological innovation.
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