Taylor Swift performing with Haim in 2022WIKICOMMONS/ RAPH PH, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=120897796

Taylor Swift has won it all: 12 Grammys, 40 American Music Awards, a doctorate from New York University, the hearts of millions, my laptop home screen. I could go on. But one question remains: can she beat the bots?

Putting aside my absolute certainty that she is the greatest songwriter of all time, and my deep, existential fear of artificial intelligence, I asked ChatGPT to write a Taylor Swift song. The results, my fellow humanities students will be glad to hear, were dreadful.

“If you squint, it could be Swift at her most mediocre”

Maybe it’s a testament to how extensive and varied Swift’s discography is, but without specific direction, ChatGPT coughed up incomprehensible drivel. Prompted with “write a Taylor Swift song”, it produced something so vague and discordant, it was practically a word cloud with “love” in the middle. Surely the technology responsible for talking fridges and self-driving cars can do better than this.

After some experimentation, I landed on “write a Taylor Swift indie-pop song about Joe Alwyn (her partner of seven years) but don’t mention his name”, which seemed to be the best way to have the AI emulate her more recent music.

Taylor Swift - Anti-Hero (Lyric Video)Taylor Swift

At long last the song produced was almost passable as an imitation of a Swift song, opening: “I met someone special in the dark/ with eyes so blue, they lit up my heart”. It’s clunky and basic, but the broad features of a Reputation track are here: themes of dark and light, secret love, a vague description of Alwyn that doesn’t give too much away. If you squint, it could be Swift at her most mediocre.

As the song comes into its chorus, the clichés, which were previously giving directions from the passenger seat, take over at the wheel. “You’re the beat in my chest, the air that I breathe/ the home that I rest, the love that I need” sounds like a nursery rhyme written by The Chainsmokers.

By the time we reach the end of the bridge (“together we’ll chase our dreams and hold on tight/ ’cause our love will conquer all, day and night”), it is painfully clear that this is not a song written by a human- not because it’s emotionless or cold (although it certainly is both of those things), but because it doesn’t quite make sense. The stiffness of the wording, the frantic jumps between ideas; there is nothing here that even aims at fluency, never mind coherent storytelling.


Mountain View

Emo music is back from the dead

Swift has a habit of delivering the simplest lines in the most gut-wrenchingly meaningful way, and there are phrases in this song that have the potential to be heavy-hitters: “this love is real”, “you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me”, but their context betrays them.

The simplicity of “It’s me, hi/ I’m the problem it’s me” (from Swift’s “Anti-Hero”) is clearly deliberate, when it is featured alongside lines as deeply incisive and cleverly constructed as “did you hear my covert narcissism/ I disguise as altruism/ like some kind of congressman”. ChatGPT doesn’t have this contrast — the simple lyrics really are just simple. This highlights the fundamental problem with AI generated “art”: it lacks intention and focus. It can only ever be an amalgamation of things already made: it will never be original.

It feels clichéd to say that AI is soulless, and it’s certainly been said enough times already. Instead, I’ll say that AI is not dynamic or focused in the way that humans think and speak, and it’s certainly not as eloquent as Swift can be. For now, at least, she can rest easy knowing that nothing, human or otherwise, is coming for her crown.