Kanye West AI music video heralds an unclear future for visual artists

Which AI was used to create the music video?

Kanye West's AI-generated music video for Vultures.

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Kanye West has shared a preview of an upcoming AI-generated music video via Instagram. The clip shows the unmistakable morphing motion of AI video, across various scenes of horror themes. Which artificial intelligence tool did director Jon Rafman use for the Kanye West AI music video, and what precedent does this set for the creative arts?

Is the new Kanye West ‘Vultures’ music video AI-generated?

Without a doubt, the new Kanye West music video is AI. The trailer for Vultures, directed by Jon Rafman, shows the distinctive aesthetic of AI video technology.

Harnessing the power of generative AI, the video features a sequence of seemingly disconnected scenes. This is typical of AI media, as AI image generators and the like tend to struggle with maintaining consistent subjects across separate outputs. This is to say nothing of the smoke effects, the smooth interpolation of which is a dead giveaway.

Each clip is of fairly low resolution – another distinctive limitation of AI-generated video. Masked by the intentionally lo-fi art direction, which focuses on dark and gloomy themes, the low technical quality is admissible for a somewhat found-footage vibe.

Fans of the style of Kanye West will hardly be surprised. Saying nothing of the lyrics, there’s no indication that the music itself was AI-generated. However, it would be fairly easy to do so with today’s tool to create a Kanye-style beat. In fact, it’s quite easy to recreate the style of any popular musician, producing an ‘AI Kanye West song’ from sampled reference vocals. Canadian rapper Drake was last years biggest victim of this trend, with a new AI cover going viral every other week in the latter half of 2023.

Which AI did Kanye West use for the Vultures music video?

There are two likely contenders here.

Runway AI (or Runway ML) has swiftly become the enthusiast’s favorite AI video generator. With industry-leading quality, high ease of use, and a wealth of AI video features you won’t find anywhere else, this is a highly likely choice.

Stable Video Diffusion is also a reasonable bet. Announced in November of last year, this option is “capable of generating 14 and 25 frames at customizable frame rates between 3 and 30 frames per second”. This length is sufficient for most, if not all the individual clips used in the Vultures music video. It also offers greater control, as an open-source model, in keeping with other models from Stability AI like Stable Diffusion.

Both AI video generators are capable of similar quality – that of the Kanye West AI music video. It goes without saying, the quality doesn’t match what is possible with modern cinema camera. Even a handheld DSLR, even a smartphone, can produce sharp 4K video these days. The technical quality is clearly not the point, though, and it never has been. Creativity is what artists pay music directors for – creativity that gets them talked about. AI democratizes this creativity, but what does that mean for creative professionals?

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What does the popularity of AI music videos mean for the music industry?

There will still be a market for music videos, and the human directors that create them, in the coming years. AI is merely a tool; it takes a creative eye to know how and when to use it. Not every clip that comes out of an AI video generator will be usable, and most will not form a cohesive story for your video. However, the ease of use and speed of iteration is impossible to ignore.

I say this with the overarching philosophy that AI shouldn’t take creative jobs. At the same time, I believe it will. The distinction between your own ideals and a realistic prediction is not made often enough, and too few seem to hold these distinct viewpoints alongside each other.

The role of a music video director, a graphic designer, a music producer – each will change dramatically within the decade. But while tools are bound to change, creativity remains an essential ingredient. It speaks to our humanity – and there will always be a demand for that.