Resolving Disputed Beatles Songwriting Credits Using AI
Artificial intelligence could help resolve the contested authorship of The Beatles’ songs that were written by the Paul McCartney and John Lennon partnership by identifying each musician’s unique “musical fingerprint”.
Harvard University researchers have made a “musical fingerprint” for each member of the band by training a machine learning algorithm on hundreds of their songs. This algorithm was then used to examine eight songs, recorded from 1962 to 1966, where there is debate on which artist was the main influence. The songs included “In My Life” and “A Hard Day’s Night”, which are currently attributed to the “Lennon-McCartney partnership”, but are commonly believed to be entirely written by just one of them. Thus, the probability that either Lennon or McCartney were mainly responsible could be predicted.
McCartney recently revealed his anger at what he perceives as “revisionism” over his influence relative to Lennon’s after the latter was assassinated, even reversing credits on a song to read “McCartney-Lennon”.
The researchers stated “In My Life”, which Rolling Stone ranked the 23rd greatest song of all time, has “garnered the greatest amount of speculation about its true author”. The lyrics were written by Lennon, but McCartney claimed he wrote all of the actual music – a fact Lennon’s testimonial disputed. The AI algorithm calculated, with 81.1% certainty, that Lennon did in fact write the verse, but McCartney’s touch in the song’s bridge was estimated with 43.5% certainty. Thus, Lennon’s testimonial that McCartney contributed to the song’s middle-eight melody can be corroborated.
The algorithm also lets one see how musician’s influences change over time, and how large the collaborative element of song writing in pop music is. Furthermore, judgements from the research include that McCartney “tended to use more non-standard musical motifs” in his songs, with higher song complexity being a “distinguishing feature” of his songs.