I am certainly not angry with Mick Jagger — I’m quite happy with him. This is especially true because, in late October, the Rolling Stones unveiled their first album in 18 long years: “Hackney Diamonds.” Crafted by the iconic trio of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood, alongside the brilliant talents of Matt Clifford, Steve Jordan, and the wizardry of producer Andrew Watt, “Angry” emerges as a triumphant resurrection of the Rolling Stones. The spry octogenarians declare they are far from the end of their artistic odyssey. Rather, they’ve stepped back into the spotlight to cement themselves as the most powerful and timeless rock band of all time, providing the soundtrack to people’s lives from the time they were 19.
The new record featured a single originally released on September 6th: “Angry.” It’s a lively, boisterous rock anthem that humorously captures a relationship quarrel. Jagger proclaims that he wanted to create a “funny and ironic” song, highlighting the “drama and humor” of a couple’s argument, as he stated in an interview with Jimmy Fallon. The funky track retains the classic Stones essence with a contemporary twist, amplified by drum tracks from the late and legendary Charlie Watts, to whom the record is dedicated.
Others are actually angry with Mick. From the first few moments of the song, it becomes clear that his voice has been manipulated, likely by autotune. Critic Ewan Gleadow complains, “[‘Angry’] is something to get angry with, but also a song to get angry about. Jagger and his reliance on electronic manipulation is a shame considering the strengths of his vocal performances in live sets and earlier material.” Writer Tom Taylor of Far Out Magazine exclaims: “When the dust settles, and the dazzle of showmanship subsides, you’re left assured that they’ve still got it — ‘it’ being the unrivaled ability to make a behemoth spectacle out of something distinctly average.”
Many see the new Stones album as a departure from their original sound and a capitulation to modern music trends. Mick Jagger’s voice, while still recognizable, sounds like “Mother’s Little Helper” recorded in 1966 when he was only 23. However, it somehow lacks the fullness of his younger voice. This starkly contrasts the weathered, nearly 80-year-old rock star’s natural timbre. I yearn to hear more life in his voice. But, the choice is also an innovative effort to pioneer a new path for older artists and the perpetually evolving landscape of rock and roll history.
Mick Jagger justifies his decision in an interview with Tom Power: “I don’t want the Rolling Stones to be retro…I want it to be like a Rolling Stones record, but it’s gotta sound like it was recorded this year…It sounds like now, the clarity of it, the fidelity of it.” He then explains that his band can play anything — and though they’ve been around since 1962, they can easily fit into the musical landscape of 2023. They cement this idea in their music video featuring 26-year-old Sydney Sweeney on a car driving down Sunset Boulevard. In light of these modern changes, “it still has all the things of the Rolling Stones,” says Mick Jagger .
The Rolling Stones boldly embraced vocal manipulation, expertly blending their classic sound with modern technology. They prove that genuine artistry embraces innovation, regardless of critics that may be yearning for something of the past.
In the broader scope of modern music, AI is continuing to make major impacts on the industry. When used with intention, these tools are creative aids, not synthetic crutches for initiating artistic expression.
Of course, when AI is used without the original artist’s involvement, it can undermine the artist. “Heart On My Sleeve,” for example, is an AI-generated song that sounds like Drake and The Weeknd, though neither of the artists participated in its production. This can threaten the essence of artistic expression and the legitimacy of the music industry’s future.
Creatives are biting their nails as AI gets more and more powerful. Software programs like Amper Music, AIVA, and Soundful create an almost unnervingly easy environment for anybody to sound like anything — whether that be long-dead artists or ‘perfect’ representations of themselves. Instant ‘professional’ sounding music is more easily accessible than ever. This shift reduces the demand for musicians and the roles of audio engineers and producers.
While AI is often viewed as dystopian, its full impact on the industry will be less black-and-white. Musician rights activist Kevin Erickson assures, “I get a sense that there are built-in limits to how much public interest there will be in using AI to have a digital approximation of a singer that didn’t actually perform.” Once the buzz and popularization of AI songs subside, individuality in the industry may come to be defined more by the artists themselves than the sounds they create.
In a perpetually evolving artistic world, it is of utmost importance to note the intention behind the use of AI and vocal manipulation. This distinction is key in defining the impact that the tool has on the industry. In the case of the Rolling Stones, it allowed for the birth of an inventive sound that at once preserved 1960s originality while also fitting in seamlessly to the 21st-century landscape, ushering in decades of joy and innovation to the world of music.