The viral song “Heart on My Sleeve,” which features AI-generated vocals mimicking the voices of Drake and The Weeknd, has been submitted for Grammy consideration. However, after initially suggesting the song might be eligible, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. is now changing his tune.
Mason Jr. backtracked on his comments in an Instagram video on Friday. After opening the clip by saying he wanted to clarify “bad and really inaccurate information” that’s been floating around, he said “Heart on My Sleeve” was not eligible because the vocals weren’t cleared and it’s not available commercially. It’s worth noting that the comments don’t address the AI origins of the song.
“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,” Mason Jr. said. “I take this stuff very seriously. It’s all complicated, and it’s moving, really, really quickly. 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.”
See Mason’s video below.
“Heart on My Sleeve” was written and produced by the anonymous producer Ghostwriter, and made waves after it went viral on streaming services this past April. Within days, though, Universal Music Group sent takedown notices to DSPs, and the song was removed. At the time, a statement from Universal was shared on Billboard, criticizing the song for its “infringing content created with generative AI.” Since then, the track has only been available through snippets and uploads by unofficial third parties.
Nonetheless, Ghostwriter has been active in advocating for the recognition of music made with AI technology, and a representative for the producer confirmed to The New York Times that “Heart on My Sleeve” had been submitted for Grammy consideration in two categories: Best Rap Song and Song of the Year — both of which go to the writer of a song, not the performer.
In his initial comments to The New York Times, Mason explained that the song could be eligible on creative grounds. The representative for Ghostwriter — who is also anonymous — confirmed that “Heart on My Sleeve” is an original composition written and recorded by humans, and because of that, Mason says: “It’s absolutely eligible because it was written by a human.”
There is one obstacle in the path of Ghostwriter’s Grammy ambitions, though, and that’s the issue of “commercial availability,” a requirement for getting nominated. According to the Times article, the Recording Academy must confirm that the song is “available nationwide via brick-and-mortar stores, third-party online retailers and/or streaming services.” Because of its removal from DSPs, this might be the end of the road for “Heart on My Sleeve.” On the other hand, the representative for Ghostwriter said that the team was “aware of the commercial availability requirement.”
For Mason and others at the Recording Academy, this whole episode serves as a great case study. The bottom line with all this AI-generated art, in their eyes, is that they still want humans to receive recognition for the human work they did. “That’s the distinction that we’re trying to make,” Mason told Variety this past July. “It’s the human award highlighting excellence, driven by human creativity… If a human writes a track and AI is used to voice-model, or create a new voice, or use somebody else’s voice, the performance would not be eligible, but the writing of the track and the lyric or top line would be absolutely eligible for an award.”
Ghostwriter, meanwhile, has made even more overtures to the music world at-large. According to the Times article, they’ve met with powerful figures in the music and tech industries to discuss AI and its potential. Additionally, they’ve teased a second track: a “Travis Scott” and “21 Savage” song entitled “Whiplash.” Like “Heart on My Sleeve,” the song is original and was human-written, but the artists’ voices were mimicked using an AI-generative lens.
In a video teasing “Whiplash,” Ghostwriter included a statement explaining that “the future of music is here” while appealing to Scott and 21 Savage to allow them to release the song (though they also added that they’d respect the artists if they chose to not embrace the song). “It’s clear that people want this song,” they wrote, before asking the artists to reach out directly. “DM me on Instagram if you’re interested in allowing me to release this record, or if you’d like me to remove this post. If you’re down to put it out, I will clearly label it as AI, and I’ll direct royalties to you. Respect either way.” Listen to a snippet of the song below.
As for Drake and The Weeknd, neither artist seems to be heading to the Grammys anytime soon. Drake has been teasing his upcoming eighth studio album For All the Dogs, which is due out on September 22nd. His 2023 tour is ongoing — check out the full list of dates, and grab your tickets here.
Meanwhile, The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, has indicated that he’ll retire his stage name after his next album, which he’s described as a “last hurrah” of sorts. Last month, HBO confirmed that his infamous show, The Idol, had not been renewed for a second season.
— ghostwriter977 (@imghostwrit3r) April 16, 2023
I used AI to make a Travis Scott song feat. 21 Savage… the future of music is here. Who wants next? pic.twitter.com/jFKLTzyzeT
— ghostwriter977 (@imghostwrit3r) September 5, 2023