Recording Academy head Harvey Mason Jr. has officially reversed course after appearing to indicate that “Heart on My Sleeve,” the popular AI release made to sound like a project from Drake and The Weeknd, could be eligible for Grammys.
Mason Jr. just recently doubled back on his comments about artificial-intelligence music’s Grammys eligibility – and particularly whether the mentioned “Heart on My Sleeve” would in fact have an opportunity to take home one or more awards.
Previously, the professional behind the much-streamed effort, one Ghostwriter, had reached out to industry figures “about how to best harness the powers of A.I.,” the New York Times reported earlier this week.
Subsequently, the anonymous musician (and his or her team) – who wrote and recorded “Heart on My Sleeve” before complementing the track with the AI voices of Drake and The Weeknd – is said to have attended a Recording Academy-organized virtual roundtable about artificial intelligence.
Mason Jr. had messaged Ghostwriter on social media after being impressed with “Heart on My Sleeve,” per the Times. And at some point thereafter, the musician went ahead and submitted the work for Grammys consideration in the Best Rap Song and Song of the Year categories.
“As far as the creative side, it’s absolutely eligible because it was written by a human,” Mason Jr. said of the matter when speaking to the Times.
Predictably, the music industry powers that be were (and are) far from thrilled about the possibility of their acts’ missing out on a major promotional opportunity in the Grammys.
Bigger picture, the major labels, which promptly booted AI soundalike releases from streaming services such as Spotify, are undoubtedly aware of the broader commercial implications of allowing individuals to reap rewards and a share of the spotlight after using AI to mimic voices without permission.
(Incidentally, Toronto natives The Weeknd and Drake are boycotting the Grammys and haven’t hesitated to express their qualms with the happening and the Recording Academy itself. It’s unclear whether the point factored into Mason Jr.’s decision to contact Ghostwriter personally, invite the disruptive creator to a high-profile meeting with prominent industry figures, and then make the above-disclosed comments to the Times.)
In any event, Mason Jr. (who’s now attempted to clarify the Grammys’ AI rules multiple times on the year) walked back his remarks in a hastily recorded video that was uploaded to Instagram.
“Hey everyone,” Mason Jr. said in the grainy clip, “I’m sorry, but I have to clear up some of this bad and really inaccurate information that’s starting to float around. This version of ‘Heart on My Sleeve’ using the AI voice modeling that sounds like Drake and The Weekend, it’s not eligible for Grammy consideration.
“Let me be extra, extra clear. Even though it was written by a human creator, the vocals were not legally obtained. The vocals were not cleared by the label or the artists. And the song is not commercially available. And because of that, it’s not eligible.
“I take this stuff very seriously. It’s all complicated, and it’s moving really, really quickly. And I’m sure things are going to continue to have to evolve and change. But please, please do not be confused. The Academy is here to support and advocate and protect and represent human artists and human creators. Period. Thank you.”