'Oh, Milwaukee!' Can AI write good music?

NOW: ’Oh, Milwaukee!’ Can AI write good music?

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- "Music is the universal language of mankind"-- it's a quote from 19th century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but in the 21st century, that language no longer belongs to just humans.

Artificial Intelligence technology is moving so fast with nearly limitless applications and possibilities. Could AI also be the next great songwriter? CBS 58 morning news anchor Mike Curkov asked Open AI's Chat GPT to write him a song about Milwaukee. In just seconds, the AI returned song after song.

Curkov brought the song to a couple of local artists, blues singer/songwriter Stephen Hull and the postmodern hard rock band Apex Aura.

Both of their initial reactions were laughter.

"I see a lot of chords." said Hull.

"The amount of chords is just..." said Apex Aura guitarist Nigel Johnson.

Here are the original chords and lyrics:

'Oh, Milwaukee' lyrics created by Chat GPT by

"At least the lyrics are cohesive." said lead singer Peter Mueller, of Apex Aura. "I can count a beat out to them."

We gave them some time to work out something they could perform. Apex Aura and Stephen Hull both simplified the chords. Apex Aura altered the lyrics slightly. Both came up with something very different.

"I could see it being in a local commercial or something like that." Johnson said.

"Like on 58!" added Mueller.

"It has a nice...spirit to it." said Hull of the song. "But you can tell it was written by someone who doesn't have a background in songwriting. It's meeting a quota vs. making sense."

"I think that AI has a lot of practical application in the world we live in," Mueller said. "But I just think that the best songs come from the heart."

The lyrics read like a lyrical Trip Advisor or a rhyming Yelp search. To try to find some passion, some heart, we asked it to write a break-up song based in Milwaukee. Here are those lyrics: 'Goodbye, Milwaukee' lyrics by Chat GPT by

"This one's a little more convincing to me." said Mueller.

"We could tug at some heartstrings with this one." Johnson said.

None of the songs the AI spit out were perfect, but they all seemed like a nice jumping off point. Is that songwriting? Is that art? Is it cheating?

"I'll put it like this." said Hull. "Willie Dixon wrote so many songs. Muddy Waters, Coco Taylor, Chuck Berry, Etta James, they all sang his songs. And they made them their own. They're not viewed as 'less than' for that. I hope that same kind of grace is extended to where technology leads us."

Our thanks to Apex Aura for participating in our AI experiment. You can hear new music from the band including their new singles 'Coming for the Crown' and 'The Last Time' on their Spotify page. Follow Apex Aura on Facebook or on Apex Aura Instagram.

See Apex Aura perform live:

May 12th: The Peeb Cave (Milwaukee)
May 17th: Wednesday Metal Night with Milwaukee's Apex Aura LIVE! (Manitowoc)
May 27th: Pine Cove Show: Zammek, Apex Aura, & ABADDON'S END (New Lisbon)
June 30th: Summerfest local stage

The Apex Aura version of the Oh, Milwaukee was recorded and produced at Cherry Pit Studios in Menomonee Falls. Thank you to Cherry Pit and producer Eric LaBrosse.

Our thanks also to Stephen Hull of The Stephen Hull Experience for his performance of Oh, Milwaukee. Stephen Hull is a blue singer/songwriter based in Racine. He's currently touring South America, Africa, and then Europe later this summer.

Stephen is playing the Chicago Blues Festival June 9th & 11th including a main stage performance on Sunday, June 11th at 4pm.

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