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Does AI have a place in the future of songwriting? Musicians at the Ivors have their say

It looks like AI, for better or worse, is here to stay. But does it have a place in modern songwriting?

By Rolling Stone UK

Sting and Trudy Styler (Picture: Alamy)

An assorted list of musical luminaries including Sting and Charli XCX have opened up on the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), as many begin to contemplate its potential role in the future of music.

They discussed the issue last week at the Ivor Novello Awards, where Geordie icon Sting became the 23rd musician to be honoured with a prestigious fellowship of the Ivors Academy.

“Songwriters and our rights needed to be protected,” Sting told Rolling Stone UK.

“Especially in light of AI and legislation that may or may not protect us. I don’t think we can be complacent about its dangers or indeed its advantages, but it’s an open question. We can’t not just think about it.”

In the past few months, stories about emerging AI technology have become a weekly occurrence in the media, with many experts emphasising that an AI reality is happening right now, not just one day in the future. ChatGPT has been writing lyrics, AI has created a viral collaboration between Drake and The Weeknd that doesn’t exist and a Kanye West verse generator, while a ‘lost Oasis’ album emerged, and Liam Gallagher said it was “better than all the other shizzle out there”.

But amid the fears, Charli XCX, told an altogether different approach. She told Rolling Stone UK and other press outlets that she doesn’t “really care”.

The 30-year-old, who was picking up the 2023 visionary award, said: “Maybe that is a very uneducated answer, but I haven’t delved super deep into it. I heard an AI-generated song, it was a collaboration between me and Ava Max and it slapped.

“Personally I’m not really bothered, I’m into the idea of me just being global so have robots make songs… I don’t care.”

Kamille, winner of the Outstanding Song Collection and the first Black woman to win the award, believes we need to tread with caution.

“I’m afraid of robots! I don’t even like using self-service check-outs at Sainsbury’s, but it’s the way the world works and we have to move with it,” she said.

“I’m very old school though and I still prefer to write for myself. It’s inevitable to be nervous, but I’ll continue doing what I do. But I am scared!”

Meanwhile, James’ Saul Davies admitted that ChatGPT had a scary ability to mimic lyrical abilities.

“I asked it to write a James song last year and 30 seconds later it came back with this lyric about dolphins!” he admitted.

“But I then got it to do a Bruce Springsteen song, and it’s the best thing he’s done in ages!”

Elsewhere, Harry Styles, SAULT, Wet Leg and Raye were among the other big winners at last week’s awards. Styles, Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson won for most performed work with ‘As It Was’, while SAULT scooped album of the year.

Wet Leg were also named songwriters of the year, while Raye won best contemporary song for ‘Escapism’.