Is Randy Travis’ New Song Bad for Country Music?


There is a right answer to what Randy Travis‘ new, AI-generated song means for country music.

It just requires patience and nuance and other things not found on social media.

  • Where That Came From” was created using more than 40 vocal tracks from Randy Travis’ catalog and a vocal mix from singer James Dupre.
  • Country stars including Cody Johnson, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood and Clay Walker came out in support of the song. Their response to hearing Travis sing again was often emotional.
  • Travis lost the ability to speak after suffering a stroke in 2013.

You’ll find very few people who flat-out don’t like the song. Instead, it’s the process that many find objectionable. Taste of Country Mornings host Wood polled his audience and shares that critics are worried about what’s next.

What Critics Are Saying

“It’s great that Randy Travis is putting out new music. It is,” he says in the above video. “But what’s next? You know? … that’s Pandora’s box.”

For example, will an artist take a shortcut in making a record so he or she can oblige two personal or professional commitments at once? That could start with a backing vocal and grow to the point that fans aren’t sure it’s Carrie Underwood (or Luke Bryan, or Old Dominion or whoever) singing all the notes on the next album.

That would cast doubt similar to the shadow cast over Major League Baseball during and after the steroid era.

There’s also a fair bit of consternation that someone will apply AI (artificial intelligence) to Keith Whitley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline or some other late legend not here to give consent. There have been amateur efforts to do just that — a Hank Williams cover of “Texas Hold ‘Em” comes to mind — but each is a novelty with a lifespan shorter than a cicada’s.

What Fans Are Saying

The plus side of AI is fans get to re-connect to their favorite artists. Travis’ music evokes strong memories for anyone alive and listening in the ’80s and ’90s. It may recall a late mother, father, sister or brother.

That’s what great country music does, and if you ask anyone taking a sentimental swing at this question, they’ll say the ends do justify the means.

Tennessee legislators became the first in the nation to add voice to a law that protects someone’s name, image and likeness from being duplicated without consent (the ELVIS Act). That feels like a smart move going forward to curb the avalanche of bad actors some worry about (although it’s not clear if that army is charging).

The technology can’t be undone, so the conversation should be about the future — play offense, not defense. The music industry has historically done a poor job of this — think Napster in the early 2000s.

A Reasonable Compromise (On the Internet No Less!)

Credit a radio listener for nailing it.

“The word that kind of kept coming up on a lot of text messages was ‘heart,'” Wood shares. “Like, (other examples of AI) doesn’t have their heart in it.” If that puts a bit of the obligation on the consumer, that’s probably OK for now.

After watching Travis’ interview with CBS last weekend, few can argue his heart isn’t in this.

Randy Travis Pictures, Through the Years

See pictures of Randy Travis through the years, beginning with a photo of a wide-eyed young man from North Carolina in 1978, before he even had a hit song.





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