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AI Reviewed a Record — We Had Some Notes

Here’s what happened when we typed “Rolling Stone review of Lil Yachty’s album Let’s Start Here” in Bing’s AI

Lil Yachty AI album review

Illustration by Matt Cooley. Photograph in illustration by Prince Williams/Wireimage

Here at Rolling Stone, we’re always looking for new music reviewers, young hot shots fresh off the street who are ready to blow us away with their innovative style and fresh insights. We also have a soft spot for terrible ideas. So we figured hiring a supersmart robot to write record reviews was a no-brainer. We asked Bing’s chatbot to write a “Rolling Stone review of Lil Yachty’s album Let’s Start Here.” We used Bing because it has access to the current web, whereas ChatGPT does not. We wanted Bing to feel at home, and since Let’s Start Here has an AI-generated cover, we felt it was a nice fit. Below is Bing’s draft with our edit notes. It should go without saying that onboarding any new hire is never a seamless process, and judging by Bing’s copy, it doesn’t look like our human writers need to get any more existentially freaked out about their place in the world than they already are.

Lil Yachty, Let’s Start Here

Bing AI: Lil Yachty has always been a musical chameleon, shifting from bubblegum trap to Detroit rap to viral pop with ease and charisma.

RS Editor: OK, here’s a classic rookie mistake. We call it “assuming too much knowledge.” Phrases like “viral pop” and “Detroit rap” could use some explanation. The ideal RS reader is a music fan with an interest in all genres, but not someone who’s up on every bit of new jargon. Take a step back and explain these terms. Also, these terms seem pretty vague and kind of incoherent, like they were coughed up somewhat at random with some last-minute Googling. It feels frantic and insecure, but also kind of empty, like you’re trying to prove how up-to-date you are without totally knowing what you’re talking about.

But on his fifth studio album, Let’s Start Here, he takes his most daring leap yet into the realms of psychedelic rock, experimental jazz, and alternative pop. The result is a stunning showcase of his artistic vision and versatility, a sonic journey that defies expectations and genres. Let’s Start Here is not a typical rap album, nor is it a typical Lil Yachty album.

Sorry, but that’s a bit of a cliché pile-up — ”sonic journey that defies expectations and genres” is a phrase that could apply to literally thousands of albums. Every phrase you use should be specific to THIS album. That shouldn’t be hard with Let’s Start Here. But before we even get to that, we need to be more expansive about what his music has been like in the past. It’s good to set the stakes for this release by exploring his previous work more fully.

It’s a bold statement of intent, a declaration of creative freedom and ambition. Yachty collaborates with an eclectic array of musicians, from indie-rockers MGMT and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker to R&B singers Fousheé and Diana Gordon to jazz legend Herbie Hancock. He also enlists producers Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and Patrick Wimberly, who help craft the album’s rich and diverse soundscapes.

“Rich soundscapes” is a little hacky (no offense). And can we mention the songs these artists appear on, and how their musical personalities play off Yachty’s? This review doesn’t describe the music in very much detail. We really like our reviews to give the reader a sense of what it’s like to listen to the record. In doing so, it’s good to use evocative imagery and creative language. A lot of the writing here is quite flat (again, no offense). Your descriptions feel glancing and cursory. Also, and this is very worrying, “jazz legend Herbie Hancock” doesn’t appear anywhere on this album. Our research team would get that, but the fact that you’d put it in there at all is scary. What gives, man?

The album opens with “the BLACK seminole.,” a sprawling epic that references the history of Afro-Seminole people in Florida and features a guitar solo by Parker. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which explores themes of identity, self-discovery, and transformation.

And a lot more! For me, the synthetic, distractedly trippy tone of the music mixed with Yachty’s horndog-Cylon singing seems to circle around the idea of trying to make sense of your desires and emotions in a technologically mediated era. There’s freedom in this music, but it’s tinged with a certain amount of dread. That’s just one possible way in. You might choose another. But I’d generally like to see you go deeper. Despite the LP’s intentionally tossed-off feel, Yachty is dealing with some pretty serious stuff here. For instance, the album cover was generated by AI and shows a kind of demented board of directors. I feel like you’d be uniquely qualified to explore that image. And yet you don’t mention the LP cover at all. It’s weird, almost like you’re avoiding the issue. It’s creepy.

Yachty sings more than he raps, often using his voice as an instrument to convey emotion and melody. He experiments with different styles and influences, from the funk-infused “running out of time” to the synth-pop anthem “sAy sOMETHINg” to the prog-rock finale “REACH THE SUNSHINE.”

That’s pretty flat and far too general. Let’s go deeper!

Let’s Start Here is not an album for everyone.

We don’t indulge in this kind of marketing conjecture in our reviews — it’s not our job to say who will like this record, it’s our job to engagingly explain what we think of it and why.

Some fans might miss the playful and catchy hooks that made Yachty famous, or find his new direction too radical or pretentious. But for those who are willing to follow him on his artistic journey, Let’s Start Here is a rewarding and refreshing listen, a testament to Yachty’s growth and potential as a musician and a creative director.

Yachty as “creative director” is interesting. The album has proven to be quite divisive. Some critics think it’s an experimental masterpiece and a new way forward for music, others hear it as a corny, pretentious trend-hopping overreach. You’re clearly in the first group, but it might be nice to get into his intent. Where is he taking us? Where is he taking music? Also, the phrase “creative director” sounds familiar to me. I wonder where I’ve heard that before.

OK, Bing. Look, I know all my notes here will be a lot to process. I don’t want you to feel discouraged. And I do want to thank you for filing such clean copy so fast. It’s really great to be able to assign a review at 8:30:21 a.m. and have it back in at 8:30:28 a.m. This is solid work, especially for a first assignment. That said, we definitely have a lot to do to get this piece where it needs to be. You seem to have a general sense of the basics of what a review should be. The piece has a generally authoritative tone. But as my notes above suggest, I do feel like the review could go a little deeper. For instance, in the RS review of Yachty’s 2017 album, Teenage Emotions, our human critic Christopher R. Weingarten cleverly argued that the music had the “giddy, childlike, organic, occasionally broken feel of Eighties twee-centric bands like Beat Happening, Television Personalities, and Half Japanese.” Kind of makes you want to hear Yachty, and check out Half Japanese too, right? (BTW, are you a fan? 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts is a total classic in my book.)

In any case, I’m sure we can get this done and come up with a great review! Right now, it’s 9:02:34 a.m. Can you get me a revise by 9:02:42? Thanks. 

From Rolling Stone US