Is Now and Then Really a New Beatles Song?
Now and Then, a “new” Beatles song, was uploaded to YouTube on November 3 (or thereabouts) and 5 days later had 23 million views.
I should begin by saying that this is not really an analysis of the song itself, which I think is great. But my focus is more on the strangeness of living in a world where technology blurs the lines between fiction and reality.
Music fans, especially those who grew up with the Beatles, are excited that a new, or at least never before released. Beatles song is available. From a musical standpoint, this is a beautiful and moving song that gives us another entry into the band’s already unsurpassed legacy.
However, music that combines work from living and dead artists also raises some questions. The new song and music video was created using AI technology developed by filmmaker Peter Jackson. Apparently a demo tape of the song was originally created by John Lennon.
This is not the first time footage from deceased musicians has been combined with new music but it’s certainly the most ambitious and high profile example. Probably the most famous prior example was the “duet” of Unforgettable between Natalie Cole and her late father Nat King Cole. This came out back in 1991, proving that cutting edge AI technology isn’t needed to pull off such feats.
Is This Really The Beatles?
Is Now and Then really a new Beatles song? This is actually a complex question. First of all, this isn’t a deep fake as some have suggested (I actually read this on some YouTube comments). A deep fake implies that the footage is not real, such as would be the case if they used AI-generated characters to impersonate the Beatles. All the footage in the video is real and the musicians you see and hear are indeed the Beatles. However, the performances you see are not happening at the same time as depicted.
So, it’s real in one sense, but the result is still fabricated, creating a somewhat eerie effect. We see, for example, an 80-year-old Paul McCartney alongside younger versions of his bandmates.
Many of the reactions to this video are very emotional, nostalgic, and even tearful. As a Beatles fan myself, I get it. A new song from what many call the greatest band in the world is a big deal…