That horrendous AI John Lennon is completely tone deaf

AI John Lennon
(Image credit: Jona Rotting / HeyGen via Twitter)

We've seen a fair few controversial uses of AI art in the past few months. From winning entries to art and photography competitions to AI 'models' in fashion and backgrounds in Netflix animations, almost every week brings fresh controversy. But an AI-generated John Lennon is provoking what must be the most universally hostile reaction yet.

The creepy, tone-deaf AI video brings Lennon back to life (just about) to laud the merits of AI image generation through a bizarre script that packs in cringeworthy plays on his lyrics in phrases like "give prompt a chance" and "prompt is all you need" (if this doesn't completely put you off AI forever, see our pick of the best AI art generators to see the tools available and the best AI art tutorials to learn more about how they work).

See more

The AI John Lennon video was created by the freelance creative Jona Rotting using the generative AI video platform HeyGen. I'm not sure if HeyGen itself is a play on The Beatles' Hey Jude, but the Lennon video includes some of the worst reworkings of pop lyrics ever written, mashing up phrases from various Lennon and Beatles songs all to espouse the AI revolution.

In an uncanny stilted Liverpudlian voice, the AI creation suggests that the world the legendary songwriter asked us to 'imagine' in his famous 1971 song has finally arrived thanks to AI. Yep, that's right. Lennon wasn't describing a utopian vision of world peace but a future in which we could create videos of dead celebrities saying whatever we want.

HeyGen itself describes the video as an "amazing use case" – the potential use presumably being a campaign to dissuade people from ever wanting to have anything to do with AI-generated video. Meanwhile, Rotting describes the video as a "homage to my hero". The one silver lining is that it appears to have achieved something even Lennon would never have thought possible: uniting the internet.  In what must be one of the most unanimous verdicts Twitter has ever seen, response after response expresses horror at the video's lack of taste.

A lifeless-looking AI John Lennon (Image credit: Jona Rotting / HeyGen via Twitter)

"The level of disrespect and propaganda," one person responded. "This is horrifying and disgusting and deeply wrong and you should be ashamed of yourself for creating it and for wanting to create it in the first place," someone else wrote.

We've seen plenty of examples of AI art using dead celebrities before, including photographs of much-missed icons. Those were actually surprisingly moving and had at least an inkling of artistic merit. But 'resurrecting' an icon like Lennon not to voice his own message but for shallow self-promotion shows a bizarre lack of awareness and taste. 

We might have expected to see at least some positive reactions if the video itself were any good. But it's not only in bad taste. It's just plain bad and does little to sell AI. Many are arguing that it barely looks like Lennon and suggesting it would have been better to hire an actor. The lifeless Lennon barely moves and the voice is clearly digital. "It's like if the Tupac hologram sucked even harder," one person said. "You've made something that sounds like a computer, congrats," someone else responded.

Such misguided attempts to grab some limelight distract from the real potential uses of AI art and AI image generators, and the result ends up turning more people against what is an already a highly controversial technology. For more examples of what people are doing with AI, see our pick of some of the weirdest AI art

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.