Will K-pop’s AI experiment pay off?

image source, Good pictures

image caption, K-pop band Seventeen is now using AI, admits member Woozi, standing third from right.

  • author, Megan Lawton
  • stock, Business Correspondent

Now there’s a problem dividing K-pop fans – artificial intelligence.

Many big stars, including boy band Seventeen, have now used the technology to create music videos and write lyrics.

The South Korean group sold around 16 million albums last year, making it one of the most successful K-pop acts in history. But it was their most recent album and single, Maestro, that got people talking.

The music video features AI-generated visuals, and the recording may also feature AI-generated lyrics. At the album launch event in Seoul, one of the band members, Woosey, told reporters He was „experimenting” with AI while writing the song.

„We practiced making songs with AI because we wanted to grow with the technology rather than complain about it,” he said.

„It’s a technological development, not to be dissatisfied. I tried to use AI and look for pros and cons.”

On K-pop discussion pages, fans were torn, with some saying there should be more regulations before the technology becomes normalized.

Others, including superfan Ashley Peralta, were more open to it. „If AI can help an artist overcome creative blocks, that’s fine with me,” says the 26-year-old.

His worry, however, is that an entire album of AI-generated lyrics could cause fans to lose touch with their favorite musicians.

„AI can remove critical elements that connect fans to artists.”

Ashley hosts the K-pop fan podcast Spill the Soju with her best friend Chelsea Toledo. Chelsea admires Seventeen as a self-producing group, meaning they write and dance their own songs, but she worries about AI impacting that reputation.

„If they put out an album full of lyrics they didn’t personally write, I don’t know if it would still sound like Seventeen, and the fans want real music”.

image source, Ashley Peralta

image caption, Ashley Peralta (left) and her friend Chelsea Toledo create a K-pop podcast

For those working in K-Pop production, it’s no surprise that artists embrace new technologies.

Chris Nairn is a producer, composer and songwriter working under the moniker Assody. Over the past 12 years, he has written songs for K-pop artists including Kim Woojin and leading label SM Entertainment.

Working with K-pop stars means Chris, who lives in Brighton, has spent a lot of time in South Korea, whose music industry he describes as progressive.

„What I’ve learned from hanging out in Seoul is that Koreans are big on innovation, and they’re like, 'What’s the next thing?’ are very big on, and 'how can we stay one step ahead?’ It hit me when I was there,” he says.

„So it’s no surprise that they’re implementing AI in songwriting, which is all about communication with technology.”

image source, Chris Naren

image caption, Chris Nairn says K-pop bands generally like to stay connected with technology

„AI puts out really good quality stuff, but when you’re in the upper echelon of the songwriting game, usually the people who do the best have created something brand new. AI works by taking what’s already been uploaded, so it can’t innovate on its own.

If anything, Chris predicts that AI in K-pop will increase the demand for unique songs.

„There will be pressure from fans to hear lyrics that come from the artist’s heart, so any songs created using AI will sound different”.

Seventeen isn’t the only K-pop band experimenting with AI. Girl group Aespa, which has several AI and human members, also used the technology in their latest music video. Supernova creates scenes where only the band members’ faces move while their mouths move.

Podcaster and superfan Chelsea says it „motivated” a lot of people.

„K-pop is known for amazing production and editing, so having whole scenes done with AI takes away the charm,” he adds.

Chelsea is also concerned about artists not getting proper credit. „With AI in videos, it’s hard to know if someone’s original artwork has been stolen, which is a very touchy subject”.

image source, Good pictures

image caption, K-pop girl group Espa is also experimenting with AI

Arpita Adhia is a music journalist and self-titled K-pop super fan. He believes the use of AI in the industry demonstrates the pressure artists are under to create new content.

He also believes that AI has become normalized in the industry, with the introduction of AI covers exploding on YouTube. Cover tracks are created by fans and use technology to mimic another artist’s voice.

Arpita wants to moderate this kind of trend, and western artistes are also inviting.

Last month megastars including Billie Eilish and Nicki Minaj penned an open letter calling for an end to the „predatory” use of AI in the music industry.

They called on tech companies not to develop AI music-generation tools that „undermine or replace the human artistry of songwriters and artists, or deny us fair compensation for our work.”

For Arpita, fans feel duty-bound to regulate what is right and what is wrong because there are no restrictions.

„Although there are no clear guidelines for how much artists can and cannot use AI, we have a struggle to create boundaries ourselves and always ask 'what’s right and what’s wrong’.”

Fortunately, he feels K-pop artists are aware of public opinion and hopes for change.

„Fans are the biggest part and they have the most influence on artists. Groups are always eager to learn and listen, and if Seventeen and ESPA feel they’re hurting their fans, they’ll address it.

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