After 45 years without new music, The Beatles have resurfaced to drop their last collaborative song. Despite the unfortunate loss of two out of the original four members, the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) enabled The Beatles to release their final song, “Now and Then,” on Nov. 2.
After more than four decades since John Lennon’s murder and two since George Harrison’s death, surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr joined forces with director and screenwriter Peter Jackson. The group used the same technology to create their song that Jackson had used when restoring footage for his 2021 documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back.”
According to AP News, “McCartney and Starr built the track from Lennon’s demo, adding guitar parts George Harrison wrote in the 1995 sessions and a slide guitar solo in his signature style.”
Prof. Darren Litzie, who is teaching a course next semester entitled “The Beatles’ Legacy,” said, “The way they used AI on ‘Now and Then’ was very practical, as it allowed them to separate John Lennon’s vocals from the piano on his original demo track, something that prevented them from completing the song the first time they attempted it in the 90s.”
The original tape quality had a persistent hiss and TV on in the background. When the group was given Lennon’s original demo in 1994, they attempted to finish it, but failed due to the poor quality and tech limitations. The group was unable to isolate Lennon’s vocals, causing the demo to be shelved.
Prof. Gregory Golda said, “Once Peter Jackson got involved in this project, with the use of new technology, they were able to give the song another go and complete it.”
Jackson had developed a software which used artificial intelligence to de-mix music and isolate Lennon’s vocals.
“I really like ‘Now and Then.’ What I appreciate the most about this song is that despite the fact that it was pieced together over the course of several decades, it still sounds like The Beatles,” said Litzie. “All four of them contributed to it in some way and it follows the same format that so many of their great songs did.”
Without the use of AI, the release of “Now and Then” would not have been possible. However, some fans have mixed reviews on the use of technology in order to create the song.
“There’s something a little ghostly about it and we can never really know John Lennon’s mind,” said Golda. “But as far as uses of AI go, this is pretty harmless and will likely be the final new release of this incredible group.”
While the use of AI can be recognized as a unique and innovative application of technology, some believe that the song still carries an eerie quality as it involves input from deceased band members.
Junior Amanda Cosentino said, “Even though I think the use of AI in their new song is a little creepy, it doesn’t replace the human element.”
“Now and Then” brings a sense of nostalgia to many fans who have grown up listening to The Beatles’ music. For fans that have lived through their formation in 1960, to their breakup in 1974,
the release of their final song highlights the impact and timelessness of their music. “As I was sitting at the computer waiting to listen to the song just before it was released, I was thinking about the teenagers in the mid-1960s standing in line at the record store waiting to get the latest Beatles single,” said Litzie. “It was great to be able to get a small taste of that experience.”