Here's What It Sounds Like When AI Writes Christmas Lyrics

AI chatbot ChatGPT is everywhere right now, including in the studio with a folk-punk singer collaborating on holiday songs.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read

"Santa's back in town, with a mighty sack. He's ready to fight against the fascists' attack." Those lyrics probably won't be on the lips of many carolers this Christmas, but as far as songs about St. Nick and authoritarianism go, they're pretty catchy. 

Thanks, AI. 

For Automated Christmas Joy, a four-track album, indie-punk singer songwriter Evan Greer tapped the cutting-edge new AI chatbot ChatGPT to write lyrics, then composed the music and recorded the resulting tunes. The experimental tool from OpenAI can answer questions and write AP English essays, jokes, poetry, computer code and, clearly, Christmas songs -- and it's stirring up amazement, amusement, fear and seemingly endless stunts aimed at testing just how intelligent this artificial intelligence really is.  

A festive Christmas tree lit up with ornaments

Let's gather 'round the Christmas tree and sing songs written by AI. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

"There are some really funny moments where you can see the AI totally failing and succeeding at the same time," Greer said in a description of the project, citing the "Santa's mighty sack" line. 

"It was also pretty dystopian and weird how when I asked it to write a song about Christmas at the gay bar, the AI clearly returned results informed by the recent wave of violence against LGBTQ+ people."

"It's Christmas Eve and we're all here. At our favorite bar with our friends so dear," the song goes. "We've been through so much this year. But tonight we're gonna let go of our fears."

ChatGPT lets you enter typed questions, or prompts, using natural language. 

Greer's prompts included "Write a Christmas song in the style of Blink 182" and "Write a Christmas song set in Boston," with most results sounding a lot like the lyrics you hear blaring over department store speakers this time of year: "Oh, Boston on Christmas is a beautiful sight. The snow is glistening and the moon is so bright." 

The experiment comes as artificial intelligence generates ever more refined visual art, writes movie scripts and draws beautiful comics series. But while AI presents intriguing creative possibilities, it also raises ethical and copyright concerns among artists and even lawyers. Greer is among those pondering the complex questions raised by AI. She serves as director of the nonprofit Fight for the Future, which works to combat harmful uses of AI and campaigns for regulation "to prevent AI dystopia."   

"I'm genuinely not sure what kind of impact this technology is going to have on our society," Greer said. "It scares me, but also I kinda can't look away." 

You can stream the album on Bandcamp now. It's also available for download, with proceeds benefiting Fight for the Future.