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This article was published on April 24, 2020

This AI wrote such emo lyrics that humans thought it was My Chemical Romance

They were less impressed by its rapping

This AI wrote such emo lyrics that humans thought it was My Chemical Romance Image by: Danny Sotzny
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW Writer at Neural by TNW

If you think the songs in the charts sound like they were made by machines, you’re probably wrong — an AI’s lyrics would be better.

That’s according to research by ticket site TickPick, which recently tested whether people prefer artificial or human songwriters.

The company scraped thousands of lyrics from and grouped them into rock, rap, country, and pop songs. The words were then fed to text-generating machine called GPT-2, which used machine learning to create new sets of lyrics.

The system composed 100 songs in each genre, which the TickPick team turned into four original six-track albums. They then ran the lyrics through Grammarly’s plagiarism checker to check that the AI songwriters weren’t stealing from the artists that inspired them.

[Read: Researcher builds AI rapper to spit sick rhymes — with mixed results]

They then tested whether 1,003 music fans could spot which lyrics were made by AI and which were written by real musicians — and whether they preferred the songs created by humans or machines.

Lyrical machines

In each category, the respondents were shown three lyrics written by acclaimed human artists, and one created by an AI.

When asked which verse was the most emotional, almost 40% of people said they more touched by the AI’s words than lyrics written by Adele, R.E.M., and Johnny Cash.

And who can blame them? Only a heart of stone would be unmoved by this tear-jerker:

I stand alone and think it’s better to be alone. Lonely days, I just can’t find the will to go on. I’m in this state, and my eyes show me that I’ve been taken.

After wiping tears from their eyes, the respondents were asked which songwriter was the most creative.

Again, the AI smashed the so-called legends, attracting 65% of votes for this inspirational poetry:

When clouds part to reveal a man in the wilderness outside the pale light of morning. A secret within the door can hear him say. The clouds will reveal what I mean.

Humanity’s last chance to overcome the machines came in the overall favorite category — and the AI was finally defeated. It nonetheless deserves applause for this imaginative effort:

I got my rig in the back of my Beemer. Professional when I graze, I’m professional when I argue. 40 glass, I’m laughing at that s***, I’ma be roaring at that s***

Generating genres

The experiment also revealed which genres are hardest for AI songwriters to master.

The respondents struggled to spot which pop and country lyrics were written by an AI. And its rock song was so emo that they thought it was written by My Chemical Romance or Nirvana.

However, they were less convinced by artificial rapper Young AI. Almost 36% of them recognized that a human did not create these bars:

In the city at night, wild stars appear. From far away, there’s a quiet storm. About to collapse, I’m in a rush to buy a house. The disappointment, just too strong to overcome. My ego and my consciousness got me out the track. So I search for answers, but there aren’t none.

The researchers believe this is because the unusual syntax of rap songs is hard for algorithms to interpret, which should keep rappers safe in their jobs for now. But for rockers, pop stars, and country singers, it might be time to pass their mics to the machines.

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