In the not-too-distant future, when a superstar artist like Drake releases a new track, we could be hearing it in multiple languages, in the artist’s own voice, on the day of release.
On Monday (April 15), we caught a glimpse of how AI vocal technology can be used to do just that.
South Korea-based entertainment giant HYBE has released a new single called Masquerade from an artist called MIDNATT and the track is being touted by HYBE as the “first-ever multilingual track produced in Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese”.
According to HYBE, MIDNATT sang the track in the six languages, and using AI, “the pronunciation data of native speakers was applied to the track to further refine the artist’s pronunciation and intonation”.
HYBE explains that the multilingual track employs the technology of Supertone, the fake voice AI company it acquired last year in a deal worth around $32 million, following an initial investment in the startup in February 2021.
According to HYBE, the project has been launched “with the goal of offering global music fans a music experience that goes beyond the physical limitations of K-pop”.
In addition to the track being sung in six different languages, HYBE says that voice design technology was used to create an “artificial female voice” that can be heard on Masquerade.
According to HYBE, “MIDNATT needed various vocals to viscerally express the feeling of self-contradictory emotions in the song, and BIGHIT MUSIC and HYBE IM utilized Supertone’s technology to create new voices while maintaining his own unique vocal style”.
The company adds: “As a result, Masquerade mimics the effect of several singers singing on the track.”
You can hear the multi-lingual teaser for the track below, followed by the full English and Spanish language versions of the track below that:
MIDNATT is the alter ego of BIGHIT MUSIC-signed artist Lee Hyun.
MIDNATT (Lee Hyun) is aso the artist behind ‘Project L,’ a collaboration project between HYBE’s ‘HYBE IM’ and BIGHIT MUSIC divisions, that Bang Si-Hyuk (a.k.a. “hitman” bang), Chairman of HYBE, mentioned in his April cover story with Billboard.
Masquerade is described as “a synthwave track that boasts a modern take on a retro sound layered with rhythmical electric guitar”.
K-Pop ‘mega-producer’ and DJ Hitchhiker, who has produced for EXO, Red Velvet, f(x) and more participated in making of the track as the executive producer.
In celebration of the single release, MIDNATT held a media showcase with Wooyong Chung, president of HYBE IM, and Young Jae Shin, president of BIGHIT MUSIC.
“There are many new technologies used on this project, but at the core of the music is my stories as an artist and a person.”
MIDNATT said: “There are many new technologies used on this project, but at the core of the music is my stories as an artist and a person.
“I have received much love for my previous work which had long been my motivation and something I’m very grateful for.
“But I had this longing inside me to try out a style of music that I’ve never tried before. I hope that the fans can feel my sincerity in the music.”
Founded in 2020, Supertone claims to be able to create “a hyper-realistic and expressive voice that [is not] distinguishable from real humans”.
The startup generated global media attention in January 2021 with its so-called Singing Voice Synthesis (SVS) technology.
MBW asked in October if a major push into artificial intelligence could be next on the agenda for HYBE as it ramped up its ‘diversification strategy to become less financially reliant on its flagship act, BTS.
The use of AI vocals in the music business has become a hot topic since then, and HYBE’s new release from MIDNATT showcases the possibilities of what it can achieve with Supertone’s technology.
The ability to release six versions of the same track in different languages to streaming services worldwide, all of the same quality, with the actual artist singing the songs, on the same day, is a huge opportunity for rightsholders.
There is understandably a lot of suspicion around the use of generative AI and AI vocal-mimicking technology amongst some in the music industry following the ‘Fake Drake’ saga and other examples of AI software being used to mimic established artists’ voices without their consent.
However, HYBE’s latest effort using Supertone’s tech highlights that not all vocal mimicking AI is a threat. Today’s news also follows suggestions in recent weeks from various prominent music executives that AI could have potential positive effects on the music industry.
For example, last week, Warner Music Group CEO, Robert Kyncl told analysts on WMG’s earnings call that, “When it comes to generative AI, it needs to be put into proper context. Framing it only as a threat is inaccurate”. He added: “Our first priority is to vigorously enforce our copyrights and our rights in name, image, likeness, and voice, to defend the originality of our artists and songwriters.”
On Universal Music Group‘s Q1 earnings call, UMG Chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge gave an interesting answer to a question asking whether UMG would one day consider licensing some of its sound recordings to a company like OpenAI (creator of ChatGPT), so that creators could use such a platform legally build new music based on “derivative” copyrights. (Think: Millions of kids making their own ‘fake Drake’ rap tunes – but legally – and Drake getting paid for it.)
“We’re open to, in terms of licensing, any business solution,” said Grainge. “Obviously [within that], you have to respect our artists and the integrity of their work.
“My philosophy for this company has always been [that] we should be, and can be, ‘the hostess with the mostest’.
“So yes, we’re open for business with [AI companies] which are legitimate, which are supportive, and [with] which we can create a partnership for growth.”Music Business Worldwide