Neither Drake nor The Weeknd really raps or sings on Heart on My Sleeve, released last Friday. Kanye West hasn’t really released a song on which he raps all his regrets over his recent misconduct. Rihanna didn’t record her version of Beyoncé’s Cuff It. Nor did Michael Jackson sing from beyond the grave to cover The Weeknd’s Die for You. Yet these songs all exist. And all of them were generated by artificial intelligence. “We have seen the use of AI expand for visual works. Now it’s done in music,” notes Abhishek Gupta, founder and principal investigator of the Montreal Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence. The most recent case, that of Drake and The Weeknd, is particularly elaborate: we are dealing here with a complete song of more than two minutes, invented to match the style of music of the two artists. If a sharp ear can detect a few flats that could cast doubt on the authenticity of the song, most people, if they were not warned, would have every reason to believe that the two artists from Toronto have decided to unite once again their forces to release a success just in time for the summer. As of this writing, the TikTok video of Heart on My Sleeve has had over 9 million views (it was deleted later that evening), the long version on YouTube has been viewed almost 200,000 times and the piece had 250,000 plays on Spotify.

The internet user who used artificial intelligence to make this song never tried to pass it off as a real piece of Drake and The Weeknd. The first video streaming the song, on TikTok, shows the self-styled “ghostwriter”, wearing a sheet and sunglasses to preserve his identity. The text simply says, “I used AI to make a Drake song in collaboration with The Weeknd. Since he does not claim that this song is a real piece of the two artists, he thus protects himself from possible lawsuits, but not from all. “It is important and it is the prerogative of the artists to file a complaint, because they have a right to the use of their voice, explains Abhishek Gupta. It is one of the things, as an artist, that defines and identifies them. There is a moral basis and a legal basis to sue. Since the song Heart on My Sleeve was released on Friday, many netizens have speculated about its provenance. For many, it would be a publicity stunt by the two artists. Doubt persists for some admirers. And therein lies the problem. “There used to be a fine line between what is AI-generated and what is human-made, but that line no longer exists,” comments Abhishek Gupta. The ability to reproduce is so advanced that even the experts are [confused]. Drake and The Weeknd have not commented on the release of the “new” song, which was removed Monday night from music streaming platforms.

Deepfake, or special effects to create fake videos or reproduce voices using artificial intelligence, has raised many ethical concerns for many years. “AI detects patterns that characterize a voice, based on markers like pitch, rate, vocabulary used. The machine finds them and replicates them,” says Abhishek Gupta. By downloading music from desired artists, AI bots are allowed to memorize their voice and music style. Algorithms then make it possible to use this information to create new versions of existing songs or to manufacture them from scratch.

The comments of Internet users praising the quality of Heart on My Sleeve or even affirming that the song is better than what Drake and The Weeknd could have done are numerous. “This is the beginning of the end for the music industry,” one user wrote on Reddit, echoing the concern of many on social media. So what if AI creations proliferated, delivering robot-made songs to platforms alongside tracks from real musicians? For Abhishek Gupta, even if artists like Drake are right to be angry to see lines of their voice used without their consent, it is especially the smaller musicians who risk paying a high price. “Those who work under contract, who rely on their commissions, could see their work replaced by AI, because it will cost less,” he says, citing for example those who produce soundtracks for videos or trailers. For some – but they are rarer to say so publicly – AI can be positive. “Artificial intelligence is the future of music,” said French DJ David Guetta1 recently, who used AI to add a fake Eminem verse to one of his songs. Abhishek Gupta also believes that some of this technology could be beneficial to the industry: “It could eventually give ideas, sounds, offer things that we don’t yet imagine that could inspire artists”, considers he.

Some fear for “real” music and “real” compositions. For Abhishek Gupta, we must keep in mind that society generally likes to turn to what is done by humans rather than by machines. “For the same reason that we buy artisanal chocolate or encourage our local artists”, we will not necessarily be inclined to prefer AI-generated music, he believes. Remember that a group of players in the music industry launched the Human Artistry campaign with the aim of protecting artists against the rise of AI and its possible abuses, by creating a list of principles to be respected when to include technology in artistic creation, and that the American label Universal – which notably owns the musical catalog of Drake – recently asked Apple Music and Spotify to protect its catalog against companies using artificial intelligence. Abhishek Gupta announces that we will now have to learn to live with AI in music. “The genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back. »