Hard-core fans of the musical Hamilton can never get enough of the catchy soundtrack (I speak from experience). So they may be happy to know they now have a new song to earworm over. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical’s creator, had nothing to do with this one, though. The lyrics were written entirely by AI.
To come up with the song’s lyrics, Eli Weiss, a film production student at California’s Chapman University, used Shortly Read, an AI application designed for writing that incorporates GPT-3, the powerful third-generation machine learning language model used by OpenAI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research group backed by Elon Musk.
GPT-3 has been supplied with 45TB of text data, presumably including the full lyrics to Hamilton, and can generate a range of written content with simple inputs.
Weiss and team entered this one sentence: “Here are the lyrics to a new song from the hit musical Hamilton: An American Musical.” The program then created lyrics to a tune with four verses, a chorus and a bridge that correctly identifies characters in the story and their relationships to each other.
“It messes up a few times, like when Hillary Clinton makes a brief appearance,” says Weiss, a huge Hamilton fan, “but overall it’s incredibly convincing.”
Indeed, most of the lyrics, both in words and cadence, feel like they’d fit right in to the musical, which tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, largely through hip-hop. “I wrote my way out of hell, I wrote 6 feet past the grave. I wrote a song about you, the only thing that kept me safe,” the AI lyrics go.
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GPT-3 produces word sequences that are often amazingly human-like, but can also contain some amusing surprises.
In the case of the new Hamilton song, Hamilton’s devoted wife gives him a most unwelcome gift: “I met a certain young lady called Eliza and I’m 90% sure she gave me syphilis. But I hope I gave it back to you.”
Then there’s the reference to Hillary Clinton as “my new Eliza.” The machine learning tool likely linked the former secretary of state to Hamilton lyrics referencing that government post. How Clinton becomes Hamilton’s new love is anyone’s AI guess.
Weiss’ friend Michael Gribble, a film music student, put the AI-written song to music and performs it in the video above. This isn’t the first time AI has written a new Hamilton song, however. A few years ago, creative Max Deutsch trained a neural network on the musical’s lyrics and asked it to come up with a new tune.
AI is becoming an increasingly visible player in the creative space, doing everything from generating Katy Perry and Elvis songs to painting nude portraits and crafting poetry in the style of the classics. Sometimes the results genuinely connect to the human experience. Other times, they’re downright creepy.
Weiss and his creative partner Jacob Vaus are among those fascinated by AI’s creative potential and have tapped it to write scripts and compose other songs.
“Right now, most of that work still has this comedic charm to it, but I think somewhere in the middle of that spectrum is what we will start to see a lot of in the years to come,” Weiss says. “AI being used here and there in the creative process to fill in gaps and make adjustments.”
History has its eyes on you, AI.