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:

Dis­cov­er DALL‑E, the Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Artist That Lets You Cre­ate Sur­re­al Art­work

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!


  • 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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