New Beatles single ‘Now and Then’ released

A NEW Beatles song produced with a little help from artificial intelligence (AI) and including the vocals of John Lennon was released last Thursday — to lukewarm reviews. 

The song comes more than four decades after it was originally recorded as a demo, but despite the hype left critics distinctly underwhelmed. 

“’Now and Then’ is not terrible…But ultimately, it’s kind of mundane,” wrote Geoff Edgers in the Washington Post. 

The Times daily in the UK said the song showed AI being used to its best advantage. Parts of it also conjured up “that classic, bittersweet, Beatlesesque flavour”, wrote reviewer Will Hodgkinson. 

“Unfortunately, none of this can mask the fact that the Last Beatles Song is far from a lost masterpiece,” he added. “’Now and Then’ is wispy, indistinct and, frankly, a bit of a wet ballad. It sounds more like late-period Lennon than any moment in the Beatles’ career.” 

Variety magazine took issue with the lyrics in particular. 

“It’s hard to imagine Lennon being happy with lines like, ‘I know it’s true, it’s all because of you/ And if I make it through, it’s all because of you’,” wrote the magazine’s Jem Aswad. 

He said the song sounded more like a “rough and incomplete sketch of a song reassembled and elaborately embellished, rather than a complete one”. 

“Now And Then”, first written and sung by Lennon in 1978, was finished by his fellow band members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. The track was unveiled by Apple Corps, Capitol and Universal Music Enterprises, with a music video released last Friday. 

McCartney, 81, announced the song’s release in June, in what was dubbed in a promotional trailer “the last Beatles song”. 

“It’s quite emotional and we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording,” he said in a video on YouTube ahead of the release. 

“Now And Then” was one of several tracks on a cassette that Lennon had recorded for McCartney at his home in New York’s Dakota Building in 1979 — a year before his death. It was given to him by Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono in 1994. 

Two other songs, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”, were cleaned up by the producer Jeff Lynne, and released in 1995 and 1996. 

An attempt was made to do the same with “Now And Then”, but the project was abandoned due to background noise on the demo. 

AI has now made that possible, although the use of the technology in music is the subject of industry-wide debate, with some denouncing copyright abuses and others praising its prowess. After the recording was processed using the new technology, “there it was, John’s voice, crystal clear”, McCartney said. 

“Now And Then” is being released as a double A-side with the band’s 1962 debut single “Love Me Do” and cover art by US artist Ed Ruscha. — AFP

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition