What Happens When Artificial Intelligence Creates Images to Match the Lyrics of Iconic Songs: David Bowie’s “Starman,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” & More




Lyricists must write concretely enough to be evocative, yet vaguely enough to allow each listener his personal interpretation. The nineteen-sixties and seventies saw an especially rich balance struck between resonant ambiguity and massive popularity — aided, as many involved parties have admitted, by the use of certain psychoactive substances. Half a century later, the visions induced by those same substances offer the closest comparison to the striking fruits of visual artificial-intelligence projects like Google’s Deep Dream a few years ago or DALL-E today. Only natural, perhaps, that these advanced applications would sooner or later be fed psychedelic song lyrics.


The video at the top of the post presents the Electric Light Orchestra’s 1977 hit “Mr. Blue Sky” illustrated by images generated by artificial intelligence straight from its words. This came as a much-anticipated endeavor for Youtube channel SolarProphet, which has also put up similarly AI-accompanied presentations of such already goofy-image-filled comedy songs as Lemon Demon’s “The Ultimate Showdown” and Neil Cicierega’s “It’s Gonna Get Weird.”

Youtuber Daara has also created ten entries in this new genre, including Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” and (the recently-featured-on-Open-Culture) Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

Jut above appears a video for David Bowie’s “Starman” with AI-visualized lyrics, created by Youtuber Aidontknow. Created isn’t too strong a word, since DALL-E and other applications currently available to the public provide a selection of images for each prompt, leaving it to human users to provide specifics about the aesthetic — and, in the case of these videos, to select the result that best suits each line. One delight of this particular production, apart from the boogieing children, is seeing how the AI imagines various starmen waiting in the sky, all of whom look suspiciously like early-seventies Bowie. Of all his songs of that period, surely “Life on Mars?” would be choice number one for an AI music video — but then, its imagery may well be too bizarre for current technology to handle.

Related content:

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Artificial Intelligence Program Tries to Write a Beatles Song: Listen to “Daddy’s Car”

What Happens When Artificial Intelligence Listens to John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space & Starts to Create Its Own Free Jazz

Artificial Intelligence Writes a Piece in the Style of Bach: Can You Tell the Difference Between JS Bach and AI Bach?

Artificial Intelligence Creates Realistic Photos of People, None of Whom Actually Exist

Nick Cave Answers the Hotly Debated Question: Will Artificial Intelligence Ever Be Able to Write a Great Song?

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


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  • scrickabong_gurl_42069 says:

    This tech is going to create all sorts of problems. Deep fakes are gonna create all sorts of political issues, helping to blend the already fractured line of facts vs fake news. The people that run these ai image generating companies are taking copyrighted works by artists and using them to train models without the artists consent. In other words copyright theft. Once artists are out of work from this tech, they will raise prices just like companies like Uber did with their services. Why the heck is this so hard for so many people to see?

  • Andy Baio says:

    In mid-June, MC Frontalot released an AI-generated lyric video for his song “Secrets from the Future” using images from Midjourney generated by internet archivist Jason Scott, two months before any of these other videos!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVm8oZx9WSM

  • James says:

    They said the same thing about VCRs. No one cares.

  • Yes I have a name says:

    >What Happens When Artificial Intelligence Creates Images to Match the Lyrics of Iconic Songs: David Bowie’s “Starman,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” & More

    Uncreative people with not one bit of taste in them can produce videos in which they overlay images with other images and bad font choices and then an internationally well known blog writes about this not even mentioning those crimes agains aesthetics. This is what happens.

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