Is AI on the brink of out-doing pop composers/songwriters? I mean, could one assume that a song written using AI could pass on the radio as a regular tune? Already, we hear about web services which can automatically mix and master music tracks. Upload your recorded track, pay for the service (some of them might be even free) and voila! You’ve got a finished product in a fraction of the time it would take you to work with a studio and a mixing/mastering engineer. That’s nuts! And also kind of sad, of course, for career engineers and studio owners who are reasonably worried about their livelihoods in the coming years.
The argument that’s usually made about AI has to do with feeling. In short, even if a machine got all the technical elements right: a fitting bass-line, a stable drumbeat that suits the style, clever horn arrangements that are harmonically sensible, and even a monster guitar solo filled with shreds and runs that are on the same level of Slash’s performances, can they capture feeling? Will we listen to something and have it resonate with us like when we hear GnR’s “November Rain,” say? Is that programmable? I suppose you would need a sizable database of human emotions and a pretty large mapping of how a listener reacts to each particular sound, theme, word, etc. I think it will happen. I don’t know necessarily how I feel about it, but I have to admit, at the rate that technology is advancing, I believe it’s only a matter of time. There are already pop-stars and actors that are AI and while they may not look completely realistic yet, they sound fairly close already.
Hong Kong artist Jialin is not artificial intelligence, but as a young artist, he is technically more than a little advanced. According to his bio: “Jialin is Guitarist, Producer, Singer-songwriter, and arranger. He was raised in Hong Kong and grew up in Los Angeles. Fluent in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Different cultural environments have shaped him into a multi-element musician. Jialin started playing the piano at the age of 5 and self-taught himself the guitar when he was in sixth grade…Jialin has played in more than 20 shows in the last two years, and recorded on more than 12+ different artists’ songs.” That’s a pretty substantial resume, to say the least. We can only imagine what this artist will have learned and will be putting out 10 years from now if he’s learning the game this quick!
Jialin’s subconscious persona and the latest offering is “Erika,” which is as modern-sounding of a track as they come. In some ways, “Erika” sounds like it was composed, arranged, and produced by artificial intelligence, but that’s just evidence of how technically on top of his game Jialin is. While obviously not made using AI, we can assume that most of the sounds on the track are programmed, except the vocals and guitars.
Stylistically, “Erika” seems to land somewhere in between Lee Ritenour’s 80s output and a Miami Sound Machine B-side. Everything here is right on cue, from the smooth, slurred bass fills, to the female soul-style backups. The sections unfold with great pop mastery, striking the balance between catchiness and sophistication. The synth-brass arrangements are definitely highlighted here, adding that smooth, Latin-crossover-type sound, which may well appeal to a crowd thirsty for those sorts of tone-colours.
This is how Jialin sees “Erika”: ‘we all have that “someone” in our head, but he/she doesn’t really have a name. This person is another side of ourselves and presents the most alternative emotions. In my world, this person is called Erika. This isn’t a song about someone, it’s a song about my other self…There are multiple parallel stories happening at once in our subconscious mind, if we look closer, we will find it.’ We’re not exactly sure if we’ve found our “Erika,” but we’ve certainly found our Jialin. Keep those smooth-rock jams pumping out sir, and we’re sure there will be plenty of space for you even after the bots take over. 😉