Human creativity wins as AI music is barred from the Grammys

 Robots star in an innovative musical show written by an artificial intelligence for a vision of the future of entertainment
(Image credit: MikeDotta via Shutterstuck)

In recent months, it’s become hard to discuss art without discussing artificial intelligence - whether it’s AI-generated images winning photography awards or debating the nature of art and human creativity online. Recently, we’ve seen an explosion of AI-generated music, and while some of it is decent, the Grammys have now made clear the award is reserved for human creators - for now, anyway.

Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr told that while the academy will allow AI music and content to be submitted, “the Grammys will only be allowed to go to human creators who have contributed creatively in the appropriate categories”.

This came after AI music was thrust into the spotlight thanks to an anonymously-uploaded track called Heart On My Sleeve, featuring AI recreations of Drake and The Weeknd, which exploded on Youtube and TikTok.

The song (it was a banger, to be fair, and sounded very realistic) even made its way onto major platforms like Spotify and Apple Music before being unceremoniously pulled from all platforms. Following these events, rapper Ice Cube went public and vowed to sue any AI creator that uses his voice - a stance that seems to be the general consensus from most artists in regard to generative AI in the music industry.

Sign of the times 

Mason did say that these current rules stand for now, and hints at a possibility that this might change as artificial intelligence continues to destabilize so many aspects of our culture and media. The news should especially come as a delight to Drake, who went on a bit of a tirade when Heart On My Sleeve went viral. 

The Academy CEO also said that “if there is an AI voice singing the song or AI instrumentation, we’ll consider it”, and that in terms of songwriting, the song has to be “mostly” written by a human, with the same going for performance categories - “only a human performer can be considered for a Grammy”.

These are some pretty loose distinctions, but it does seem like the Academy is taking a step in the right direction in dealing with this whole new wave of art - if you consider it art. While I may not personally regard generative AI projects as art, that doesn’t necessarily stop these projects from being, well… good.

super bowl halftime show 2021

Despite not having worked on the song at all, The Weeknd and Drake were both credited for 'Heart On My Sleeve'. (Image credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Harper's BAZAAR)

I think we’re only a couple of years away - if that - from seeing a whole new category bubble up in music awards (and other industry awards) as people implement AI into their work or whip up an entire ‘artist’ created entirely using AI. After all, the popularity of digitally-created ‘Vocaloid’ artists in Japan proves that there could be a long-standing precedent for AI-generated musical personalities to succeed.

As it stands, as long as any music facilitated by artificial intelligence fits the parameters listed, it can be submitted for a Grammy - but the AI won’t be considered a performer or songwriter. It’s a tricky line for the Academy to walk; while a lot of folks in the music industry may absolutely hate AI, artists like Grimes have fully embraced it.

All we can do is recalibrate how we think about awards like the Grammys, and make a designated space for this burgeoning ‘artform’. Having a ‘best AI song’ category might seem silly, but perhaps it’s the fairest way to acknowledge the work of AI creators without detracting from human musicians.

We’re at the very beginning of a whole new era of… everything. Every aspect of our lives is getting a sprinkle of ChatGPT here or there, and while some of us may not be happy about it, all we can do is move forward. The technology is out there, AI music is already very popular, and at the end of the day, this isn’t a problem you can just magically lawsuit away.

Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison. Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place. Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).