More than 50 years after the Beatles broke up, Paul McCartney said artificial intelligence helped create one last Beatles song that will be released later this year.
The song was made using a demo with John Lennon’s voice, McCartney said in an interview with BBC Radio 4 that was released on Tuesday. He did not give the title of the song or offer any clues about its lyrics.
“When we came to make what will be the last Beatles record, it was a demo that John had, that we worked on,” McCartney said. “We were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this A.I., so then we could mix the record, as you would normally do.”
Holly Tessler, a senior lecturer on the Beatles at the University of Liverpool, said in an interview on Tuesday there was speculation that the song might be “Now and Then,” a song Lennon composed and recorded as a demo in the late 1970s.
Lennon was fatally shot outside his New York apartment building in December 1980. His widow, Yoko Ono, gave the tape to McCartney as he, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, who died in 2001, were working on “The Beatles Anthology,” a career-retrospective documentary, record and book series.
Two other songs on that tape, “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love,” were later completed by the three surviving Beatles using his original voice recording and were officially released in 1995 and 1996.
It is unclear exactly how McCartney was using the latest demo and whether any new lyrics would be incorporated.
The use of A.I. technology to create music with the voices of established artists has raised a number of ethical and legal questions around authorship and ownership in recent months.
This spring, an A.I.-produced song called “Heart on My Sleeve,” which claimed to use the voices of Drake and the Weeknd, became popular on social media before it was flagged by Universal Music Group. Similarly created tracks, including one using A.I. versions of Rihanna to cover a Beyoncé song and another using A.I vocals from Kanye West to cover the song “Hey There Delilah,” continue to rack up plays on social media.
Other artists are embracing the technology. Grimes, the producer and pop singer, put out a call in April for anyone to make an A.I.-generated song using her voice. The results were mixed.
Proponents of the technology say it has the power to disrupt the music business in the ways that synthesizers, sampling, and file-sharing services did.
McCartney’s use of A.I. technology may recruit new fans, but it may also alienate older fans and Beatles purists, Tessler said.
“We have absolutely no way of knowing, creatively, if John were alive, what he’d want to do with these or what he’d want his contribution to be,” she said, adding that it creates an ethical gray area.
Over McCartney’s career, he has been quick to engage with new creative technologies, whether talking about synthesizers or samplers, she said.
“I think he’s just curious to see what it can do,” Ms. Tessler said of McCartney. “I mean, it gives us some insight into his mind and what his creative priorities are, that given how much of the music industry is at his fingertips, that what he chooses to do is finish a demo with John Lennon. In a way, it’s very poignant.”