The Beatles are still pioneering, over 60 years after their founding. The Thursday release of the band’s last “new” song, “Now and Then,” is blazing a new trail with the use of artificial intelligence.
Using the same technology “Lord of the Rings” auteur Peter Jackson did for the Apple TV docuseries “The Beatles: Get Back,” the group’s surviving members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, were able to reunite with late bandmates John Lennon and George Harrison to finish the song that originated nearly 50 years ago.
“Now and Then” was written and sung by Lennon, who died in 1980 at the age of 40. Shortly after his death, Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, gave McCartney a cassette recording of the song. It was recorded in the 1970s, some time after the Beatles split up.
The song also features guitar parts recorded by Harrison in 1995, prior to his death from lung cancer in 2001. McCartney and Starr added new vocals, drums, bass, guitar and piano to the single.
On the four-minute track, Lennon sings: “I know it’s true/ It’s all because of you/ And if I make it through/ it’s all because of you.”
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” McCartney, 81, said in a statement about completing the song last year using AI. “It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. In 2023, to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
Early reviews for the song are positive:
Variety critic Jem Aswad wrote: “So that’s the how and why; the real — unfair — question is whether the song comes close to measuring up to the Beatles or their collective solo works’ towering legacy. Of course it doesn’t, but it’s still an unexpected pleasure that marks the completion of the group’s last bit of unfinished business.”
Another hot take immediately popped up on social media:
“Absolutely incredible biblical celestial heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time,” Liam Gallagher wrote about the track on X, formerly known as Twitter, on release day. The former Oasis crooner said he didn’t have any hesitation about liking the new song, telling a fan: “The Beatles could s– in my handbag and I’d still hide my polo mints in there.”
To accompany the new/old release, a 12-minute documentary titled “Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song” premiered on the band’s YouTube channel. A music video, directed by Peter Jackson, will debut Friday.