A Music Critic Reviews AI Songs

Some are technically impressive. But are they actually good?
Drake, Kanye West and the Weeknd
Image: Cath Virginia 

AI-generated music is everywhere. Computers are making our wildest cover dreams come true, reuniting Oasis and even having a stab at writing whole songs to express their innermost ones and zeros. But as you wade through the swamp of AI-generated tunes, you may be wondering: Are any of them actually any good? Sticking to the maxim that all music is either bad, fine, good or amazing, I, a real-life music critic (seriously), applied my finely honed critical faculties to figure it out. 


Kanye West - Untitled

This verse went viral because it’s impossible not to be blown away by how much it sounds like Kanye actually dropped by and spent approximately eight seconds recording this guy’s clunky verse. What actually happened was that Roberto Nickson found a Kanye-ish backing track, wrote a verse, performed it and then got AI to make his voice into Kanye’s. What gives it away is the verse itself: It has none of Ye’s verve, fire or casual antisemitism. Kanye isn’t the most nimble rapper out there, but this is plodding and clumsy compared to anything the man himself would spaff out. Still, it’s better than anything that’s come out of Ye’s actual mouth for a while now, so I’m willing to let it slide. 

Verdict: Fine

Drake ft. The Weeknd – ‘Heart On My Sleeve’

This is another one that was written by a human but performed by AI. Drake’s voice must be pretty easy for AI to generate since he sounds like he was programmed by a computer in the first place. This track nails it, although you can tell it’s not a real human voice from the way it struggles with the word “Bieber”. The computers have embraced the dead-behind-the-eyes delivery of both artists here but The Weeknd’s AI hasn’t spent every weekend for the last ten years blowing coke up supermodels’ butts and, look, it shows – he’s sounding a little too spry.


True, the fun little piano riff is good and the big fat beat is giving me 2013 flashbacks. Lyrically, “I got my heart on my sleeve with a knife in my back” is a very Drake lyric and the Weeknd generally being irritated by the existence of women sounds about right. I just think both these guys need to get Selena Gomez’s name out of their fake mouths. The song does slap though. 

Verdict: Good

Britney Spears - ‘pop, in the style of’

Listen here.

It’s a bit generous to call this a song. Or music. Or, really, any kind of sound that is parsable by the human ear. The AI’s attempt at “pop in the style of Britney Spears” sounds more like a lizard’s attempt at speaking English over an absolute nightmare scenario of a wood-nymph attending a demented fairground. The problem with trying to AI-generate a Britney song is that no two Britney songs really sound the same. Even her voice changes from track to track, which is probably why this fork-tongued computer can’t get a handle on it at all. 

Verdict: Horrifying nightmare (bad)

Nirvana - ‘Drowned in The Sun’

This “Nirvana” song has been done the other way around: The vocals are performed by a Kurt Cobain impersonator but everything else was created by AI. It’s scarily good: If you told me Dave Grohl found this while rummaging around in his attic, I’d believe you. It nails Nirvana’s quiet-quiet-LOUD song structure, the rusty plucked intro riff and the massive, pained choruses. “Drowned In The Sun” is such a wonderfully grungy song name and I think the sign of a good Nirvana lyric is whether or not you’d write it on your rough book: “I've got my hands right now in every wound/I’ve been here before but not with you/I still got some pain but it’s over now/The sun shines on you but I don’t know how” – it’s a yes from me. 


Verdict: Good

Oasis - ‘AISIS’

There’s not a ton of AI input on this one. A real band – Breezer – wrote and recorded a bunch of Oasis-style songs and then used AI to put Liam’s voice over their own singer’s. There’s half an hour of this, so forgive me but I did not listen to it all. Between them, the band and computer have perfectly evoked the feeling that Oasis always gives me, which is that a grown man is whining at me about something indistinguishable for 30 minutes. 

The AI element is definitely impressive as long as you don’t listen too closely: You can tell it’s not Liam Gallagher, but mainly because it’s actually singing and not just sort of shouting Manchester-ly near a microphone (that said, the way it delivered “sen-say-tiaaaaan” was spot on). The music is very Oasis, particularly “Alright” which starts at around seven and a half minutes in: This is where I really bought into it and began getting philosophical. What is AI but a computer parsing a load of input and coming out with something a bit like itself? And what is nostalgia but humans doing the same?  

Verdict: Fine 

Grimes – ‘In Another Life (feat GrimesAI)’

If anyone was going to fully embrace AI music it was going to be Grimes. The long-fingered one has released her own AI software (Elf.Tech) to allow users to upload their own vocals and have them transformed into her own. She’s also offering 50/50 royalties on any songs that get a commercial release, which is pretty savvy since it’s basically free money for Grimes. The downside, of course, is that one could upload any old shit and let me assure you, they have. “In Another Life” is one of the few genuinely great ones – it sounds like Visions-era Grimes. But the question is: What’s the point of using Grimes AI to make a song that sounds like a Grimes song when we already have Grimes to do that for us?


Verdict: Good

Taylor Swift – ‘Sex in My Room’

People have mostly been using AI to make Taylor say rude words and call out Kim Kardashian as part of a years-old beef. “Sex in My Room” is notable for being an actual song, but it’s very bad. Presumably written by someone who just AI-ed Taylor’s voice onto it, the track embraces tropical house five years after the fact and sounds more like a Charli XCX tribute act than a Taylor Swift dupe. So I guess we give whoever made this props for making something Taylor would never make herself but also... maybe there’s a reason she doesn’t. 

Verdict: Bad 

In conclusion

The songs that AI wrote itself are the ones at opposite ends of the scoring spectrum. Computers are clearly as diverse and baffling as human beings themselves, even if not one AI-generated track achieved amazing status. Though the quality of these songs was pretty solidly based off the quality of the material that humans gave to the AI to work with, what is for sure is that this tech is only going to get better and better. Give it a year and these machines will have learned everything they need to know to create an entirely new music industry: Will the fat cats at the top decide they simply don’t need pop stars, writers or producers to turn a buck? At the very least, we should play the Britney nightmare track outside their windows at night on repeat.