fbpx Skip to content

Artificial Intelligence and Your Music

Queen guitarist Brian May’s eerie warning
April 5th, 2024

April 4, 2024

By Jim Towey

The British rock band Queen is one of my favorites.  Freddie Mercury’s voice was like no other and the group’s unique sound and style were mesmerizing.  The YouTube video of the 1985 Live Aid performance of their hit song, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been viewed nearly a quarter of a billion times.

But as impactful as Queen’s music was, lead guitarist Brian May’s 2023 comments merit even more attention.  He warned about a “crazy little thing” called artificial intelligence, or AI.

“I think by this time next year the landscape will be completely different.  We won’t know which way is up,” May began.  “We won’t know what’s been created by AI and what’s been created by humans.”

He went on, “Everything is going to get very blurred and very confusing, and I think we might look back on 2023 as the last year when humans really dominated the music scene,” he soberly predicted.   And May is no vacuous rock star – he holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

Musicians band together

He is not the only musician to feel this way.  This week the Artists Rights Alliance published a petition against technology-generated music, citing the threat it poses to the music industry.  It concluded by calling on “AI developers, technology companies, platforms and digital music services to pledge that they will not develop or deploy AI music-generation technology, content or tools that undermine or replace the human artistry of songwriters and artists or deny us fair compensation for our work.”

AI replied, “Don’t stop me now!  ‘Cuz I’m having such a good time; I’m having a ball!”

I mean, c’mon!  Asking the greedy Big Tech and AI gold-rushers to abandon their lucre is like asking a lion gorging on its prey to voluntarily cease for the good of the wild.

No, the feeding frenzy among the tech oligarchs continues.  The Forbes 2024 Billionaires List of the world’s wealthiest individuals reveals that technology guys held the 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10 spots with a combined worth of $1.1 trillion.  Do you think these guys and their legion of AI groupies are going to forego their financial advantages to make singers Billie Eilish and Katy Perry, who signed the Artists’ petition, happy?  No, the tech gods will sing, “We are the champions, my friends, and we’ll keep on fighting ‘til the end.”

Remember the petition signed a year ago by Elon Musk and other tech gurus warning of AI’s dangers?  Well, it already has been disregarded, starting with Musk.  So “another one bites the dust.”

The real and the fake

Back to Brian May’s point, how will we know that the backup singers aren’t unpaid AI voices generated from millions of data samples?  Or that the melodies playing on the radio weren’t stolen from thousands of yet-unheard artists’ mixtapes living in the cloud or changing hands between industry producers?  Answer: we won’t.

Name the great singers of yesteryear – Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and on and on. The names instantly incite a memory of their person, who they were, their personality, style, uniqueness.  This diversity is what makes music, like all art forms, so satisfying and edifying.  

It won’t be long before we have music labels promising “100% human” content, the way restaurants differentiate between a rib eye steak and plant-based “meat,” or real milk versus non-dairy “creamer.”

AI’s copycat techniques, refined by algorithms and the theft of human brilliance, endanger more than just music.  Russian meddling may be the least of the problems facing the American electorate come November.  So-called “deep fakes” are getting deeper.  Voters beware.

The Wall Street Journal this week warned in its story, “Deepfakes Are Coming for the Financial Sector,” that “bad actors armed with deepfakes are coming” because of AI-enabled voice and images that are more lifelike than ever.  The elderly already are victims of these scams.  This, too, will only get worse.

If you are feeling as I do, you may want to shout with Freddie Mercury, “I want to break free,” or simply, “Save me”!

What we can do

But don’t despair.  It isn’t too late to begin the backlash against AI’s uninvited presence by starting in your own life.  Renounce its use whenever you can.  Ask for humans to help you.  Refuse to use ChatGPT and its progeny.  Skip the Clear line at the airport where they scan your eyeball like a can of soup at the grocers.

Read books.  Write poetry.  Sing.  Create.  Be human.

Most of all, find “somebody to love”!

(The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Aging with Dignity and/or its Board of Directors.)


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • Print

Free Aging With Dignity Membership

Enter your information to receive periodic updates and special offers from Aging with Dignity.