The Beatles are back in the charts, thanks to AI

Understanding the Difference Between 'AI' and 'Generative AI'


Image Credit: Vector Open Source


Although John Lennon passed away in 1980, followed by George Harrison 20 years later, the two remaining Beatles—Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr—are experiencing new success with a song recorded by all four members, almost. The song quickly topped the UK charts after its release in November and is still in the top 30 five weeks later.

Beyond musical tastes, the track ‘Now and Then’ offers an excellent case study for understanding the difference between AI and Generative AI.

We have been using AI in various forms for years, even decades, without realising it (GPS, internet search engines, weather predictions).

Though, it is the recent arrival of Generative AI (like ChatGPT) that has brought the subject into everyday conversations. True experts will not hesitate to remind us that AI technology has indeed existed for years.

To illustrate the difference, consider (AI) as an electronic brain capable of thinking, making decisions, and processing data with multiplied capacity.

On the other hand, ‘Generative AI’ is a specific form of AI that enables the creation of new content such as text, images, computer code, or even music.

However, the latest Beatles’ success does not come from Generative AI. It is indeed a song entirely performed by the four Beatles. Even though more than 45 years separate the first recording from its radio premiere or rather its streaming release. 

The song was recorded in three major stages:

  • In the late 1970s, John Lennon composed and recorded the song alone (voice and piano), post-band-break-up.
  • In 1994, Yoko Ono offered the cassette tape recording to the three remaining Beatles. They played and recorded over the original tape of Lennon’s voice. 
  • In 2022, AI finally allowed for ultra-precise reworking of the data — the sounds in this case — from all the recordings, especially isolating Lennon’s voice with great purity. A feat only possible with today’s AI technology. And the two survivors replayed and recorded their instrument tracks in high quality, applying overlays with the precision of an ultra-modern laboratory.

Puzzling performance

The song composed by John Lennon and performed by the four Beatles was made possible thanks to AI.

In contrast, using ‘Generative AI’ would have involved training the computer in the band’s musical style, providing it with the entire database of the group’s compositions (a catalogue of 188 original songs), and asking it to generate an entirely new song based on patterns observed in the data.

In summary, artificially creating a 189th song is possible thanks to this technology.

There is a significant difference between ‘AI’ and ‘Generative AI.’ For comparison, Generative AI experiments have already been conducted on compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music, known for its highly mathematical nature, is ideal material for Artificial Generation by machine.

Generative AI can copy a style and recreate a similar but artificial version. You can easily listen to these tests and try to distinguish the original from the artificial yourself.

Generative Emotions?

Now, when faced with works of art generated by AI, the question arises about the emotions they evoke or not.

Are these emotions comparable to those felt in front of original, human-made works, or are they artificial emotions? It’s a real debate.

Concretely, is the emotion felt when listening to the historic title ‘Yesterday’ comparable to that of the recent track ‘Now and Then’ rearranged by technology, or if further still, compared to a song that would be entirely the result of ‘Generative AI’? Generated entirely by a machine?

Will a computer be able to give you goosebumps, accelerate your heartbeat, or even bring a tear to your eye?

And if it does, will those emotional responses be as valuable as emotions created by human-generated triggers?

The answer to these questions will only result in a more profound question: just how deeply could technology make us feel?

While John Lennon sang, “Oh, I believe in Yesterday,” his avatar might well ask you: “Do you believe in tomorrow?”

By Matthieu Vercruysse , Regional EMEA Lead, Strategy &  Transformation,  Ogilvy/WPP