Monday, March 14, 2011

Challenge of the GoBot

Last month, Watson, the IBM computer who did a pretty good job against human contestants on Jeopardy! despite not knowing that Toronto isn't a U.S. city, became a conversation topic due to the long-standing love/hate relationship with robots: we are both awed by how intelligent they can be programmed to be and fear they will take over as they have in so many science fiction stories. Given that modern pop music has often been criticized for being artificial, it's not surprising that the next advancement in robotics is in the music field, as a group out of Southern California calling itself "Ark Music Factory" (presumably unaffiliated with C&C Music Factory) has created the latest advancement in robotics that is sweeping the internet, under the code name "Rebecca Black."

Basically, Ark Music Factory (who are so proud of themselves that they name-drop themselves in the intro to Ms. Black's song as if they were an artist or producer) claims to be an outlet which takes people who can't sing and don't have any talent and Autotunes the hell out of them in an effort to create a new pop star. Given the evidence of Friday, however, it's clear that this is a cover for their advanced robotics (well, "advanced" being a relative term). Looking at her, Ms. Black appears to be the result of an attempt to create a robot clone of Selena Gomez- though, either due to a malfunction or lack of parts, she was accidentally given Demi Lovato's chin.

The GoBot Mark I is clearly on the right track when it comes to writing and performing music, although it's clear there's still a lot of work to be done. The voice is still very robotic, though it is able to produce different notes (although, as many have pointed out, it sounds like it is saying "fried egg" rather than "Friday"). As far as songwriting is concerned, it is a very good first try for a song about anticipating Friday coming for a chance to party on the weekend. However, being a robot without first-hand experience, it mostly strings together clich├ęs, such as repeating the words "partying" and "fun." Being unable to drive, all it knows about automobiles is that they have front and back seats, thus coming to the conclusion that the biggest conundrum a teenager faces is which to sit in. Not surprisingly, the bridge is the most talked-about part for good reason: not only does it show that the GoBot still lacks knowledge of common English-language syntax, it also shows that, as a computer at heart, it is best at doing calculations more than anything else, caring more about informing the listeners when exactly Friday occurs rather than what happens on that day:

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today it is Friday, Friday
We, we, we so excited [sic]
We so excited [sic]
We gonna have a ball today [sic]
Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterward

This verse is immediately followed by a black man who provides a rap interlude introduced with "I be Rebecca Black." Given the lyrics he raps are no improvement over the GoBot's (combined with the fact that he is clearly not Rebecca Black), it appears that it malfunctioned at some point and a replacement was required to finish this portion of the song.

Is Friday a good song? Not really. Is it a stunning example of the future of robotics as far as the fields of singing and songwriting are concerned? Maybe. Is this post just a lame excuse to jump on the making-fun-of-this bandwagon by making a lot of "this song is so poor it was probably written and sung by a robot" jokes that I'm surprised no one else hasn't made yet? Definitely. Either way, to quote Ken Jennings by way of Kent Brockman: I, for one, welcome our new cyborg overlords. And as far as Ark Music Factory is concerned, I guess any publicity is good publicity. But when you pretty much admit your music is manufactured right in the name, I guess you shouldn't expect much. Fun fun fun fun.

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