Gorillaz say AI lacks the 'soul' of human artists as their eighth album is released

ITV News Entertainment Reporter Rishi Davda speaks to the virtual band about the future of music and technology

  • By Yohannes Lowe, Multimedia Producer

The Gorillaz's co-founder has said the "soul of the artist" is a key ingredient absent from music created by Artificial Intelligence (AI), as the virtual group ruled out handing the band over to a computer in the future.

On the eve of the release of Cracker Island, the innovative duo's eighth studio album, Jamie Hewlett told ITV News that there is no replacement for human creativity.

"There is a key element missing which is the soul of the artist. It is a computer attempting to mimic what we tell it," he said.

Created in 1998, Gorillaz began as a cartoon concept band, with Damian Albarn, chief singer-songwriter, and other musicians playing behind a screen which reportedly showed images designed by artist Hewlett.

The group are made of Albarn, Hewlett, and animated bandmates Murdoc Niccals, Russel Hobbs, Noodle and 2-D.

"We didn't come up with a formula and then we stuck to it for 20 years," Hewlett said in his sit-down interview alongside Albarn.

"It is constantly evolving because he evolves as a musician. I am involving as an artist."

Albarn said the idea is to eventually "hand" the band over to the next generation of "artists and musicians", allowing it to go "somewhere completely different".

"I think that would be really nice," he told ITV News Entertainment Reporter Rishi Davda, adding that it is rare that "true artistic minds" have the patience to be extremely technical.

"If one is found then maybe this will be the Michelangelo of the digital age," he said.

Gorillaz perform on day three of the Austin City Limits Music Festival's in Austin, Texas. Credit: Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP

The singer has described how the creation of the animated band exceeded his expectations, allowing him and Hewlett to be freed from the usual constraints artists are limited by.

Albarn, of the Brit pop group Blur, described Los Angeles as an important location in the narrative of Cracker Island, a project arriving 22 years on from Gorillaz’s debut single, Clint Eastwood.

"The cartoon cypher is deep in sort of the hills of Hollywood and the band has now joined a cult."

The Gorillaz may have popularised blending animation and music for a new audience from the 2000s, but they were not the first - and certainly not the last - artists to take performances to the next level using cutting-edge technology.

Natalie Cole, the late Nat King Cole's daughter, reached superstar level in 1991 when she recorded 'Unforgettable ... With Love', a moving single which hit No.1 and sounded as if the two were singing a duet.

Using pioneering technology, engineers mixed her voice with the silky voice of her late father's in the song 'Unforgettable', which had been a hit for him back in 1951, 14 years before he died from lung cancer.

More recently, DJ David Guetta said "the future of music is in AI" after he used the technology to add a vocal in the style of Eminem for a live show.

The French producer - who compared AI to instruments that have led to musical revolutions in the past - used two AI sites to create lyrics and a rap in the style of the American rapper.

"Nothing is going to replace taste," he told the BBC.

"What defines an artist is, you have a certain taste, you have a certain type of emotion you want to express, and you're going to use all the modern instruments to do that."

"Probably there would be no rock 'n' roll if there was no electric guitar.

"There would be no acid house without the Roland TB-303 [bass synthesiser] or the Roland TR-909 drum machine. There would be no hip-hop without the sampler."

Other artists appear to have been more criticial of some AI musical inventions.

Nick Cave, for example, wrote a scathing review of an AI system that tried to write a song "in the style of Nick Cave".

Nick Cave said he has been sent 'dozens' of songs created by ChatGPT. Credit: PA/ChatGPT

The Australian musician was responding to a fan, who had sent him a song created by the AI service, ChatGPT, which requires users to enter a prompt which it will then respond to, mimicking an almost human like conversation.

It can give answers to questions, recognise mistakes and counter inappropriate requests.

But the Bad Seeds singer was left far from impressed with its attempt at mimicking his own writing style, saying: "Suffice to say, I do not feel the same enthusiasm around this technology." He added: "What ChatGPT is, in this instance, is replication as travesty. ChatGPT may be able to write a speech or an essay or a sermon or an obituary but it cannot create a genuine song. "It could perhaps in time create a song that is, on the surface, indistinguishable from an original, but it will always be a replication, a kind of burlesque."

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