Watch a Computer Program Sing '90s Power Ballads


If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to karaoke with a computer, Martin Backes has you covered. The self-described “artist, designer, creative technologist, hacker, DJ and composer” has created a digital installation called “What Do Machines Sing Of?” featuring a fully-automated computer that attempts to sing ‘90s ballads with emotion—giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “once more, with feeling.” You can see the machine’s take on “I Will Always Love You,” and its algorithm at work, in the video above.

“As the computer program performs these emotionally loaded songs, it attempts to apply the appropriate human sentiments,” Backes writes on his website. “This behavior of the device seems to reflect a desire, on the part of the machine, to become sophisticated enough to have its very own personality.”

The computer’s algorithm was created using the programming language SuperCollider. The machine endlessly sings five songs on a loop: Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart,” Bryan Adams’s “Everything I Do, I Do It For You,” and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” When it’s done with one song, it searches through its collection and chooses the next selection randomly. The result is part autotune, part elevator music—all weird.