Fans of Nirvana may do a double-take when they hear'Drowned in the Sun,' a new song created by artificial intelligence that simulates the songwriting of late grunge legend Kurt Cobain. Engineers fed Nirvana's back catalog to Google's AI program, Magenta, which analyzed it for recurring components and then developed an entirely new track. The voice on'Drowned in the Sun,' is 100 percent human, though--provided by Eric Hogan, lead singer of the Atlanta Nirvana cover band Nevermind. The song is just one release from The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, a project developed by the nonprofit Over the Bridge, which spotlights mental health issues in the music industry. Other AI-generated'lost' tracks have taken their cue from Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse, who, like Cobain, died at age 27.
Arriving a symbolic and symmetric 27 years after he died at the age of 27, a "new" Nirvana song has been released. What makes "Drowned In The Sun" very different to "'You Know You're Right" – the last track Nirvana recorded in 1994 but which was not released until 2002 – is that Kurt Cobain did not write it and no members of Nirvana played on it. The track in question was created using artificial intelligence (AI) software that analyzed a number of Nirvana tracks in order to mimic their writing, recording and lyrical styles – drawing on vocals by Eric Hogan, lead singer in Nevermind, a Nirvana tribute act. Such digital necromancy comes with a whole host of moral, ethical and musical concerns, but in this case it is part of the Lost Tapes Of The 27 Club project raising awareness of mental health issues in music. The 27 Club refers to that mythologized grouping of musicians who all died at the age of 27.
The recently launched Lost Tapes of the 27 Club project uses AI software to create songs in the style of musicians who died at the age of 27. One of the featured tracks is called "Drowned in the Sun", and it comes pretty close to replicating a Nirvana song written by Kurt Cobain himself. With opening guitars starting out restrained before reaching a crescendo on the chorus, the track is reminiscent of Nirvana's signature hit, "Come as You Are". Its chorus sounds like something Cobain might have written, too, with lyrics like, "I don't care/ I feel as one, drowned in the sun." As explained in a Rolling Stone feature, Google's AI program Magenta was used to analyze the pioneering grunge band's music and create the instrumental track.
We've heard AI-generated songs mimic the work of AC/DC, Metallica and more. Now artificial intelligence software has generated "new" Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana tracks, along with other artists and bands with members who died at the age of 27, to help raise awareness for the importance of mental health support amongst musicians and members of the music industry. The Hendrix song, You're Gonna Kill Me, and the Nirvana track, Drowned In the Sun, are part of a new project by the Toronto-based organization, Over the Bridge, which has put together a compilation, all created via artificial intelligence, in the style of musicians who died at the age of 27. The release, titled Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, also features songs in the style of the Doors and Amy Winehouse, all made through Google's AI program Magenta, which analyses an artist's previous work in order to learn how to compose like them. An additional AI program was used to create the lyrics.
Ever since Kurt Cobain's death in 1994, Nirvana fans have hypothesized about the music he would have made had he lived. But other than "You Know You're Right," the scabrous, throat-shredding meditation on confusion that Nirvana recorded a few months before his suicide, and a few comments he told confidants about potentially collaborating with R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe or going completely solo, he mainly left behind question marks. Now an organization has created a "new" Nirvana song using artificial-intelligence software to approximate the singer-guitarist's songwriting. The guitar riffs vary from quiet, "Come as You Are"–style plucking to raging, Bleach fury à la "Scoff." And lyrics like, "The sun shines on you but I don't know how," and a surprisingly anthemic chorus, "I don't care/I feel as one, drowned in the sun," bear evocative, Cobain-esque qualities.