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Artists' voices re-created with AI

A scene from “One More Time” shows Turtleman (center) of Turtles re-created as a hologram. (Mnet YouTube)
A scene from “One More Time” shows Turtleman (center) of Turtles re-created as a hologram. (Mnet YouTube)

With the development of artificial intelligence and deep learning, things that were once impossible are now becoming possible, including re-creating the voices of deceased musical artists to sing contemporary songs.

Music channel Mnet will show AI music project “Once More Time” on Wednesday and Dec. 16, “resurrecting” deceased artists through holograms and AI voice covers.

The first episode will feature Turtleman, leader of trio Turtles, who died of a heart attack in 2008 at the age of 37. In the teaser Mnet revealed Friday, Turtles was shown singing Gaho’s “Start Over,” with Turtleman appearing as a hologram singing with the two other members. The late Turtleman’s family members and popular EBS penguin character Pengsoo, among others, witnessed the performance. The second episode will feature singer Kim Hyun-sik, who died in 1990 at the age of 32.

“In a music industry filled with K-pop idols, I wanted to show to the younger generation the type of music and artists their parents listened to,” producer Yoo Seung-yeul of “One More Time” told The Korea Herald. “Also, everyone in Korea is weary from the lengthy COVID-19 situation. For me, the fun and upbeat songs of Turtles gave me strength. I wanted to offer consolation to everyone with Turtles’ energetic songs and Kim Hyun-sik’s touching songs.”

Broadcaster SBS will pit AI against human in “Battle of the Century: AI vs. Human,” which kicks off on Jan. 22. Top experts in six fields will compete against artificial intelligence in the program, with the first episode featuring a re-creation of legendary singer Kim Kwang-suk, who died in 1996 at the age of 31. A teaser for the series showed singer Kim Bum-soo’s “I Miss You” sung in the voice of Kim Kwang-suk.

In both teasers, the songs by AI in the late singers’ voice mimicked not only the voice, but also the timbre and techniques of the singers.

Big Hit Entertainment, the label of K-pop group BTS, also announced that its artists will collaborate with a hologram of Shin Hae-chul for two songs by the late artist -- “What Do You Really Want” and “To You.”

While many companies are jumping into the re-creation of late artists, they face many hurdles.

The copyright issue is a major difficulty, as the development of AI opens new doors in copyright law. Procuring high quality music samples of deceased artists is another challenging task, especially for early artists like Kim Hyun-sik.

However, the most difficult and controversial aspect to the re-creation of late artists centers around the morals and ethics issue.

“We were most careful when getting permission from the late singer’s family members,” said Yoo of “One More Time.” “We put the opinions of family members as our utmost priority when making the program. We met with not only family members, but also teammates and close friends. If we had any trouble with copyright or obtaining permission from family members, we didn’t proceed.”

Although Yoo was worried about the public‘s reception, the trailer for “One More Time” showing Turtleman’s mother tearing up watching the performance has been well received.

By Lim Jang-won(ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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