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MTV Live and Loud: Nirvana Performs Live - December 1993Kurt Cobain of Nirvana during MTV Live and Loud: Nirvana Performs Live - December 1993 at Pier 28 in Seattle, Washington, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Artificial intelligence studied Kurt Cobain to create a ‘new’ Nirvana song, and it… kinda rocks

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Apr 7, 2021, 12:44 PM EDT

Though hits like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “In Bloom” remain FM staples decades later, the tragic 1994 death of singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain cut short any future catalog for grunge rock pioneers Nirvana. But in 2021, we actually have a “new” Nirvana song — thanks to artificial intelligence and a pitch perfect assist from a cover band leading man.

As part of the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, a project that is using artificial intelligence to create new music in the style of famous musicians who died at the age of 27, the "new" Nirvana song “Drowned in the Sun” was born. The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club zeroes in on famous musicians whose lives were cut short, talents like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and of course Cobain, and uses AI to analyze dozens of an artist’s songs to create something new and original in their trademark style.

There’s no doubt this new Nirvana tune evokes the trademark vibe of Cobain’s gritty guitars and crunchy melodies, and the AI actually generated some very Cobain-esque lyrics, including the chorus, “I don’t care, I feel as one, drowned in the sun.” The song-writing was all handled by AI, though Nirvana tribute band lead singer Eric Hogan helped provide the Cobain-esque growl to bring the lyrics to life.

Check out the tune below and let us know what you think:

 

On the tech side, the project utilized Google’s AI program Magenta to study and break down the recurring components of the songs and generate the “new” tune from those building blocks. The AI studied everything from stylistic tendencies to note choices to get the sound just right. The same approach was taken with lyrics, with AI studying several different songs to “learn” the artist’s writing style.

Though the project is a fascinating use of AI, it also has a deeper purpose: bringing to light the need for mental health. The effort is being spearheaded by the organization Over the Bridge, which provides mental health assistance for those in the music industry. Over the Bridge board member Sean O’Connor told Rolling Stone the music industry has a tendency to normalize and romanticize depression, and this project aims to ask the question: “What if all these musicians that we love had mental health support?”

Learn more about the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club here, and more about the work of Over the Bridge here.