Have you heard the news? Taylor Swift and Lana Del Ray just released the lyrics to their new song! I got the inside scoop from the TS team and am super excited to be able to share the first four verses:
In the golden sunlight, I'll find my way,
Chasing dreams, like butterflies in May.
Through tangled emotions and whispered fears,
I'll paint my story, wipe away the tears.
With a pen in my hand, I'll write my truth,
Every word a melody, a golden hue.
With melodies that soar, and lyrics that heal,
I'll weave my dreams, creating what's real.
Through the winding roads and city streets,
I'll find the strength to rise, with every beat.
In the depths of love, and moments alone,
I'll find my voice, let it be known.
Yeah. I’m pretty sure no one’s going to fall for that.
These verses are actually all written by ChatGPT. I simply typed in “write a song in the mixed style of Taylor Swift and Lana Del Ray.” It took about 5 seconds for everything to come pouring out from the tiny black flashing text cursor.
But why is it so obvious to us these weren’t the genuine lyrics? ChatGPT has successfully implemented Taylor’s style of bold love and Lana’s melancholy tone and usage of metaphors, so what is it that ChatGPT didn’t grasp?
To answer that, let’s look at something actually written by Taylor. Here are some lyrics from “Cruel Summer”--a song I streamed almost nonstop when it first came out:
Fever dream high in the quiet of the night
You know that I caught it
Bad, bad boy, shiny toy with a price
You know that I bought it
Killing me slow, out the window
I'm always waiting for you to be waiting below
Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes
What doesn't kill me makes me want you more
And it's new, the shape of your body
It's blue, the feeling I've got
And it's ooh, whoa oh
It's a cruel summer
It's cool, that's what I tell 'em
No rules in breakable heaven
But ooh, whoa oh
It's a cruel summer
Even just typing these words makes my body start swaying to the melody that has crashed through my headphones over and over again like breaking waves. Taylor’s lyrics plunge me into a fluorescent tropical summer. They make me feel the heat waves rippling upon my cheeks as I stride through the evening streets after falling victim to an unexpected breakup. Even though I’ve never actually gone through these things, these words–written by a human artist–trigger more sentimental value than the work of artificial intelligence.
The most recognizable difference between one of the greatest song-writers of the 21st century and AI is the syntax. Taylor loves to use free-form syntax to write her lyrics. She frequently changes the number of syllables per verse and introduces twists in the story being told.
A twist could be like this: “We say that we'll just screw it up in these trying times/ We’re not trying/ So cut the headlights, summer's a knife.” The “so” gives an almost helpless-sounding transition to the decision to give up on the relationship. It’s almost as if she’s telling a casual story to an old friend, outlining the changes in her mood. This was a totally spontaneous design that is in resonance with how Taylor felt at that very moment. If the listeners feel like they’re being treated like an old friend, how could they not be moved by what’s being written? On the other hand, ChatGPT is writing songs with absolute accuracy. Each sentence is in tight parallel with the next. Even the verbs of sentences are aligned in location, such as the lines “I'll find the strength to rise, with every beat./ I’ll find my voice, let it be known.” Since ChatGPT is only an artificial language model, it was not so much as “creating” but “sewing” together fragments from the information attained on the Internet.
Though it might escape our notice in everyday living, the magic of real life plays a huge role in how we sense the world. One of my favorite lines from “Cruel Summer” is "Hang your head low in the glow of the vending machine/ I’m not dying.” We all know what the glow of the vending machine looks like: a white electronic lightbulb’s eerie brightness. Imagine you’re facing it alone late at night after a painful heartbreak.
Doesn’t that immediately sketch a picture of sadness in your mind? Words gain so much power when they extract symbolistic events from real life. Yet, as we can see, ChatGPT was helplessly vague when it comes to trying to think with a humanistic mind. Look at the line: “In the depths of love, and moments alone/ I’ll find my voice, let it be known.” What moments? What voice? Nope, ChatGPT is no relationship expert. As an artist, you can go and write a whole song about heartbreak without once using the words “he really broke my heart.” Humans learn to animate the words with connotative meanings that people put into them in our daily lives.
It might feel like I’ve really been putting artificial intelligence down. But that’s 100% not what I’m going for here. After all, ChatGPT isn’t even designed for lyric writing.
If you’re trying to start a business, it can be your best advisor. What I’m trying to say is, it’ll be quite a while before artificial intelligence can match wits with our human artists. Creating is much more dynamic and complicated than sewing together information. A slight change in literary devices or syntax could create a totally different listening experience for a song. And that's exactly what human artists are best at. So paint pictures with your mind, not with AI. They would look so much better.