Beyonce’s new album ‘Cowboy Carter’ is a statement against AI music

Image credits: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella / Getty Images

Beyonce’s ‘Cowboy Carter’ has only been out for a few days, but it’s already clear that we’ll be talking about it for years to come – it’s breaking records across streaming platforms and the artist herself calls it her “best music ever” . [she’s] ever done.” But in the middle of the press release for “Cowboy Carter,” Beyoncé made a surprise statement against the growing presence of AI in music.

“The joy of making music is that there are no rules,” Beyoncé said. “The more I see the world evolving, the more I felt a deeper connection to purity. With artificial intelligence, filters and digital programming, I wanted to go back to real instruments.”

Beyoncé rarely does interviews, giving each of her comments about the new album extra weight — these comments are among the few takeaways fans get to help them understand each element of the album and how it all fits together. . So her position on artificial intelligence is not just a comment dropped in conversation with a journalist. It is intentional.

The central backlash against AI-created art comes from how this technology works. Artificial powered music generators can create new songs in minutes and imitate the vocals of the artists in a terribly convincing ladder. In some cases, this is because the AI ​​is being trained on the work of artists whose jobs it may end up replacing.

Large language models and propagation models both require large databases of text, images and sounds to be able to create AI-generated works. Some of the most popular AI companies, such as Open AI and Stability AI, use datasets that include copyrighted artwork without consent. Although Stability AI’s music model was trained on licensed music, that’s not the case for the company’s image generator, Stable Diffusion. Ed Newton-Rex AI Stability Audio Substitute quit his job for that, because he “[doesn’t] I agree with the company’s view that training generative AI models on copyrighted works is ‘fair use’.

It’s no wonder that artists like Beyoncé have strong feelings about this technology – many AI models have been trained to work for artists without their consent, and especially for budding musicians who don’t have the power to support them, it will be even harder to break into an already ruthless industry. Beyonce’s attitude makes even more sense in the context of “Cowboy Carter” himself.

Although it does not explicitly discuss AI, “Cowboy Carter” already deals with the theft and appropriation of works of art without consent. On the album itself, Beyoncé is giving listeners a history lesson on how black musicians formed the foundation of country music, which is too often assumed to represent white southern culture.

Even the title, “Cowboy Carter,” is a nod to the appropriation of black music for the benefit of white people. Although “Carter” may refer to Beyoncé’s married name, it’s also a nod to the Carters, the “first family” of country music—and those Carters took the work of black musicians to develop the style we now know as country, which continues to exclude artists of color (just recently, an Oklahoma radio station recently refused a listener’s request to play Beyoncé’s “Texas Hold’Em” because Beyoncé didn’t fit the definition of theirs for a country artist). Beyoncé’s seemingly casual stance against AI reveals a similar truth: Once again, artists’ work is being stolen without their consent and twisted into something else, leaving them without payment or credit for their cultural contributions.

There are moments on the album when ninety-year-old country icon Willie Nelson appears on a radio show called “Smoke Hour,” and his first appearance precedes “Texas Hold’Em.” The song’s setting takes on an extra layer of meaning in light of the radio incident in Oklahoma, and Nelson takes a swipe: “Now for this next tune, I want you all to sit back, take a breath, and go to the good place where your mind likes to wander. And if you don’t want to go, go find yourself a jukebox.”

This is Beyonce’s world: The jukebox and the radio are back in style, black musicians can make whatever kind of music they want, and no one’s art is stolen.



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