AI-Generated Drake, the Weeknd Collaboration Submitted for Grammy Consideration
The CEO of the Recording Academy says it's "absolutely eligible because it was written by a human"
Published Sep 06, 2023Upon Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's The Heist taking home the Grammy for Best Rap Album nearly a decade ago — beating efforts that would come to be viewed as career-defining by Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Kanye West (and a JAY-Z album presented by Samsung) — the Canadian declared the winner's consolatory text message to be "wack as fuck." At the time, Drake couldn't have possibly predicted that in a future where new levels of wack are reached daily, his AI-generated likeness could be in the running to take home the hardware.
A report from The New York Times notes that "Heart on My Sleeve" — the viral composition using AI voice models of Drake and the Weeknd, constructed by an anonymous musical creator calling themselves Ghostwriter — has been submitted for Grammy Awards consideration in Best Rap Song and Song of the Year categories.
While "Heart on My Sleeve" was swiftly removed from streaming services and YouTube following a successful copyright claim by Universal Music Group (UMG), the Times report reveals how "the shadowy act and its team were making overtures to the very industry figures 'Heart on My Sleeve' had unnerved" behind the scenes following its viral moment.
Following reports last month that Universal and other major labels were aiming to monetize AI-generated songs featuring voice models of popular artists, NYT writes that "those behind [Ghostwriter] have met with record labels, tech leaders, music platforms and other artists about how to best harness the powers of A.I., including at a virtual round-table discussion this summer organized by the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards."
How is a track like "Heart on My Sleeve" eligible for what has long been considered one of music's highest honours? The New York Times quotes Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr., who explains, "As far as the creative side, it's absolutely eligible because it was written by a human."
In June, the Recording Academy instituted a new rule that "only human creators are eligible to be submitted for consideration for, nominated for, or win a Grammy Award, writing that "the human authorship component of the work submitted must be meaningful and more than de minimis."
However, Mason Jr. noted how the Academy must consider the song's commercial availability, as Grammy rules state that a track in contention must have "general distribution," meaning "the broad release of a recording, available nationwide via brick-and-mortar stores, third-party online retailers and/or streaming services."
NYT's report also makes mention of a new Ghostwriter creation dubbed "Whiplash," which uses AI voice models to craft a team-up between Travis Scott and 21 Savage — both of whom have recently joined Drake onstage as part of his ongoing North American tour.
NYT cites a representative for Ghostwriter, who requested anonymity, confirming their awareness of the commercial availability requirement and that both "Whiplash" and "Heart on My Sleeve" were written and recorded by humans, with the mysterious creator "[attempting] to match the content, delivery, tone and phrasing of the established stars" before feeding the recordings through the voice models.
As you can hear below, "Whiplash" isn't a convincing mimicry of Scott or Savage — ultimately more DYSTOPIA than UTOPIA. But nearly 10 years on from The Heist bringing home the Best Rap crown, it's entirely believable that someone out there would consider these AI-tracks to be Grammy-worthy without a second thought.
Mason told The Times how he reached out to Ghostwriter directly on social media after "Heart on My Sleeve" went viral, recalling, "I knew right away as soon as I heard that record that it was going to be something that we had to grapple with from an Academy standpoint, but also from a music community and industry standpoint. When you start seeing A.I. involved in something so creative and so cool, relevant and of-the-moment, it immediately starts you thinking, 'OK, where is this going? How is this going to affect creativity? What's the business implication for monetization?'"
"We know A.I. is going to play a role in our business. We can't pretend to turn our back on it and try to ban it," Mason added. "I'm not scared of A.I., but I do believe work needs to be to make sure that things are in place so that the creative community is protected."
I used AI to make a Travis Scott song feat. 21 Savage… the future of music is here. Who wants next? pic.twitter.com/jFKLTzyzeT— ghostwriter977 (@imghostwrit3r) September 5, 2023