04/13/2023

ChatGPT: The Musical

Inspired by Jesse Palmer’s recent recording of a song he had ChatGPT write for him, I decided to take a slightly different approach: write a song about ChatGPT without a shred of assistance from AI.

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For months now, all anyone’s been talking about is AI and the inevitable end of humans at its digital hands. That time may be coming around the corner, but it just doesn’t feel as inevitable or pressing to me as society on the whole seems to believe. 

Sure, I’ll grant you that it’s kind of cool – I’ve been using DALL-E to generate grotesque imagery for my blog posts, I’ve used ChatGPT to help me pull salient bullet points out of reports I’m building for clients, etc., but I just haven’t been super impressed by these tools in terms of creating anything. 

I’ve previously called out that the people first in line to be “replaced” by AI are the people most impressed by its current state: the most boring among us. If you have a shred of personal creativity, I think you’re safe for now. But maybe that’s just ego and bluster on my end – at the end of the day, am I really able to offer more than AI? 

Can I Write A Better Song Than ChatGPT?

As mentioned earlier, my brother-in-law and respected colleague recently co-wrote a song with ChatGPT, which in turn inspired me to write my own song, but turn the tables a bit. Instead of asking ChatGPT for help, I would use my own human brain to write a song about ChatGPT and its battle for supremacy over mankind.

Now, I’m not the most technical musician in the world: I can’t read music, I don’t know what chords I’m playing, and I don’t know the first thing about music theory – I’m 100% self-taught, and play entirely by ear. Because of this, I tend to prioritize lyrics first, marinate myself in the feeling they give me, then churn out the instrumentation based on the melody the words inspire. Here are the lyrics I came up with:

My ChatGPT Song Lyrics

Verse 1

  • Every question has an answer now
  • The quiet parts are being read aloud
  • Solutions to your problems have been found 
  • All the steps are clearly written out

Chorus

  • With ChatGPT
  • With ChatGPT
  • With ChatGPT
  • With ChatGPT

Verse 2

  • You’re feeling restless as you look ahead
  • The once bright future needs you less and less
  • You’ll soon be dropped from every rolodex
  • As everyone gets more and more obsessed 

Chorus

  • With ChatGPT
  • With ChatGPT
  • With ChatGPT
  • With ChatGPT

Bridge

  • You’ve lost the battle, not the war
  • You still have time to even up the score
  • It’s artificial at its core
  • Your heart and soul can offer so much more

Chorus

  • Than ChatGPT
  • Than ChatGPT
  • Than ChatGPT
  • Than ChatGPT

Weirdly (for me, anyway), I was hit with the chorus and how it would sound almost as soon as I began thinking about this project. It was the first thing I wrote (or typed into my phone – I’m not a complete troglodyte), and actually wrote it as it would be sung: 

ChatGPT: The Musical 1

Instrumentation Process

This had to be primarily digital, right? I mean, it’s about AI! It also needed to feel dark and gritty – almost like a scifi horror movie. Afterall, that’s not far off from the reality people are projecting around AI. 

Everything heard in the song was written in chronological order. I started with a dirty bass, layered on some step-sequenced drums, tossed in some more drums, then stripped it back before the humanity (vocals) came in. 

Since this is about a battle between humans and machines, I felt it was appropriate to layer in some less “digital” sounds as well, primarily piano, strings and even some harp. Yes, they’re all digital recreations of organic instruments, but whatever. 

Eventually, the human vocals mix with a more robotic take on vocals, before humanity ultimately comes out on top. 

But What About DALL-E?

ChatGPT can come up with lyrics and melodies, but it’s not doing anything useful on the visual front. Its sister product, DALL-E, handles all the visuals. I’m not much of an artist, so how could I compete with AI visually?

Enter: Cinematography 

I decided that it wasn’t enough to prove myself against AI’s songwriting capabilities alone – I needed to come up with the full package of lyrics, music, and imagery if I wanted to truly prove myself against the machines. With all this in mind, I decided to turn the whole thing into a short film (I just can’t bring myself to say “music video”). 

I knew immediately how I wanted this to look: it needed to match the dark grittiness I tried to capture in the song. I wanted it to depict the loneliness of a person trying to find their place in the AI-centric future. I packed up some gear, and drove over to my parents’ empty townhouse, and got to work.  

ChatGPT: The Musical 2

Here’s how I got the look:

  • I turned off all the lights, closed the curtains, and used a super powerful LED flashlight pointed directly at my camera to create the backlit atmosphere I was looking for. 
  • I used a vintage Russian Helios 44-2 lens (a version of which was used in filming The Batman) with a focal reducer to help negate some of the Super 35 crop on my Sony FX30, and the screen of my Macbook Pro. 
  • For some additional texture, I used the arpeggio function on my microKORG (which I use as my primary MIDI controller) to recreate a little bit of that vintage, futuristic digital feel I grew up with from movies like Tron. 
  • I didn’t add any visual filters or effects whatsoever. The entire thing was shot in S-Log 3, with tweaking overarching saturation and exposure as my “color grading.” No custom LUTs or anything – just a super weird lens and an extreme lighting environment. Oh, and I shot it in 1080p just because.

That was the full extent of my gear and setup. 

One other clarifying note: while the video shows ChatGPT spitting out the song’s lyrics, nothing was actually generated by ChatGPT. I just told it to repeat my lyrics back to me for visual effect.

So How Did I Do?

You tell me. Without further ado, here’s the world premier of ChatGPT (the musical) – give it a watch/listen, and shoot me a note through our contact form or LinkedIn to let me know what you think. 

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