Sheryl Crow has chimed in on the widely discussed topic of artificial intelligence and its impact on the arts.
During her appearance on Thursday’s episode of The Tonight Show, the singer-songwriter opened up about writing her upcoming album Evolution, including the title song, which she said is about the new technology.
“My philosophy about it was, OK, I’m gonna write songs that are meaningful, in the moment, right?” she told host Jimmy Fallon. “So instead of writing an entire book, I’ll just put out sentences…but I wound up with a bunch of songs that I’d written just recently, starting off with ‘Evolution,’ which is a song about AI, speaking about The Beatles, and it’s been so disturbing to me.”
Crow went on to recall a moment when she witnessed AI being used in music creation, and she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“I did a session the other day and this young songwriter had this incredible song, but she needed a guy to sing on it so that she could pitch it to male singers in Nashville,” the singer explained. “Paid $5, put in John Mayer’s name and she played it for me. There’s no way you could tell the difference and it just blew my mind. And it didn’t just sound like him, I mean, like his inflections.”
But Crow said it “really scared” her because she looks at music and songwriting as such a personal and vulnerable outlet.
“For me, art is like soul, it’s attached to the soul,” she said. “So when you get into something that’s so much more advanced than our brains are at this point, it takes the soul out of it, you know, and it’s scary.”
AI is currently at the center of a controversial debate in the entertainment industry, including being one of the key points in ongoing contract negotiations between the actor’s union SAG-AFTRA and studios and streamers.
It has also been discussed whether songs created with the technology should be eligible for Grammy Awards. In September, Recording Academy chief Harvey Mason Jr. clarified eligibility rules after reports that a viral AI song that mimics vocals by Drake and The Weeknd was submitted for award consideration.
“This version of ‘Heart on My Sleeve,’ using the AI voice modeling, that sounds like Drake and The Weeknd, it’s not eligible for Grammy consideration,” Mason Jr. said in a video posted on Instagram at the time. “Let me be extra, extra clear, even though it was written by a human creator, the vocals were not legally obtained, the vocals were not cleared by the label or the artists and the song is not commercially available and because of that, it’s not eligible.”
He added, “I take this [AI] stuff very seriously. It’s all complicated, and it’s moving, really, really quickly. I’m sure things are going to continue to have to evolve and change. But please, please, do not be confused. The Academy is here to support and advocate and protect and represent human artists, and human creators, period.”