Nirvana: Going Inside the New Song Created by Artificial Intelligence, ‘Drowned in the Sun’


A classic photo of Kurt Cobain performing live in the early 1990s.

Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Ken Settle

Listen to a new Nirvana song called “Drowned in the Sun,” which was created by A.I. with the goal of sounding like a real Nirvana track

Today (April 5) is a sad one in music history, as it marks the 27th anniversary of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s passing and the 19th anniversary of Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley’s death. Now, with some help from the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, there’s a Nirvana-style song called “Drowned in the Sun” out there fashioned by artificial intelligence.

“Drowned in the Sun” appears as one of the AI-created songs from the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, a project that’s the brainchild of Over the Bridge, helping those in the music industry dealing with mental illness. The project uses the Google AI Magenta program to study songs from a collection of music legends who have passed away, including Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and more. In turn, the program then churns out music that, hopefully, sounds like what those artists would craft today.

“What if all these musicians that we love had mental health support?” Over the Bridge board member Sean O’Connor said in a new interview with Rolling Stone. “Somehow in the music industry, [depression] is normalized and romanticized… Their music is seen as authentic suffering.”

Coming up with the new tunes wasn’t instant. “It was a lot of trial and error,” O’Connor explained. After they had their main songs, the company they sent the tunes to an audio house to further help assist in making the songs really sound like they came from the bands and musicians.

Atlanta Nirvana tribute band singer Eric Hogan sings vocals on the song. He tells Rolling Stone that he was pretty stunned when asked to be part of the project. “After the conversation, I still didn’t really think it was a real thing,” he said. “And then they sent me files and money.”

“I was like, ‘I don’t know how to [sing] this,'” he added. “I had to have the guy who came up with the AI track mumble and hum [the tune]. I would feel weird trying to assume what [Cobain] would do. They had to give me a little bit of a roadmap, and then from there, it was fine.”

Listen to the A.I.-created “Drowned in the Sun” below. Find out more about the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club here.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Alternative, Grunge, Music, Rock

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