Funny commercial for Microsoft's Songsmith


Videogum has some funny things to say about this commercial for Microsoft's Songsmith. The technology actually looks kind of neat -- you sing anything you want and the program creates bland instrumental music to match your vocals. But the commercial itself is hilariously clunky.

In 2009, even the lamest cultural contributions have some kind of underlying self-awareness. Like, even the people who work for Bill O’Reilly, or the SkyMall catalog, are aware that what they work on sucks. But a job’s a job and they probably find a way to have fun with it (especially at the SkyMall catalog.) So that’s why this REAL commercial for Microsoft’s new Songsmith software (you sing at it and it creates horrible musak to accompany you) is completely insane. Not only is it apparently earnest and not a parody, self- or otherwise, it seems like it comes from a bizarro parallel universe where irony was never discovered. It’s like Microsoft found some kind of home-schooling Christian commune in the woods and hired them to make their commercial.
Funny commercial for Microsoft's Songsmith

119

  1. Haven’t top 40 songwriters been using this for years. It would certainly explain how everything is bland and sounds the same.

  2. Wait? This wasn’t a joke?

    Wouldn’t it be more effective if the Little Girl 2.4 hadn’t been auto-tuned with all the subtlety of a shotgun loaded with thumbtacks?

  3. @JAYPEE. I noticed that, as well. The apple logo on the back isn’t even completely covered up. You can still see the little leaf.

  4. First response: what the fuck was that?

    Second response: well that’s great (i mean lame) for those people who have some sense of tone but what about all those little kids (and adults!) who have no sense of tone? They try but fail miserably. will this match to it? Will we end up with a musical symphony created by a tone deaf computer – it’s just following orders!

    If this is Microsoft’s stb at reviving the economy i think we should all start planting more seeds to grow more of our own food – this has Failure written all over it.

    How much do they pay the guys who come up with this shit anyways?

  5. JayPee, my first thought too.. MBP.

    Also: who makes this shit? Did no one involved in making this tech see the ad before they released it? Did they not vomit?

  6. @10

    Yeah, I had the same thought. “Easy of use” is generally not my reaction when tells me that the software I’m using was made by Microsoft.

    My reactions is:

    “Microsoft, huh? Well, that explains everything.”

  7. i’m fucking speechless. seriously? i guess Sanjaya finally got a gig after American Idol. hoorah. i think i’m gonna throw up.

  8. Wouldn’t it be more effective if the Little Girl 2.4 hadn’t been auto-tuned..

    Probably not. When this hits general release, poor ol’ SongSmith will be re-keying every half-beat or so, trying to keep up with the dulcet tones of fingernails on a chalkboard.

    Although, I imagine it has a feature similar to AutoTune on it’s input, to avoid just that.

    Jebus, I hope so..

  9. Just cool out, everyone: if more things in life had a jazzy slider, you know the world would be a better place!

  10. I want this software bad. Just like with pitch-correction software, I bet you can get some pretty awesome stuff out of such a complex system by torturing it until it screams out confused distorted muzak-derived madness.

  11. The commercial was completely hip and ironic, how did you squares miss that? You’re so Herbert!

  12. You know, the sad thing, the software is ‘cute’ enough that I might have ripp… *er* bought it until I saw that commercial, now I can’t get my brain to stop bleeding.

  13. Why learn a how to sing or play a REAL instrument when you can pay the Microsoft shills to for you?

    Technology really DOES make our lives better!

  14. I can’t believe I watched the whole thing. I just couldn’t stop waiting for the wink to let me know they were kidding. I’m still not sure they’re not. They HAVE to be kidding, right?

    Either way, I hope that thing comes with a “suck” knob/slider/whatever.

  15. I don’t know- irony-free cheese is a proud part of the heritage of electronic and 20th century music.

    This commercial is kind of glorious, although the software looks about as useful as band-in-a-box was.

    It seems almost as if this commercial was released just to provide material for some “I’m a mac, and I’m a pc” mashup.

  16. Sounds like it may be a vaguely fun idea.. but yeah the commercial is disturbing at best. Why on earth do these people go to public places to try it out?? They should have put out hats and collected change while they were at it.

  17. Its not lacking irony, its so utterly ironic it looks silly.

    Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog has spawned its first child. And it is an ad for Microsoft. How sad life is today. How very very sad.

  18. Never mind, I tried this thing out and it’s pretty worthless.

    At worst it’s a completely inappropriate but uninteresting Casio demo playing over whatever sounds you record. At best it’s a completely inappropriate but uninteresting Casio demo playing over whatever sounds you record.

  19. “Microsoft, huh? So it’s easy to use.”
    Still laughing about this one.

    The whole thing is a nightmare version of the Buffy episode “Once more with feeling”, only by the Demon of Long Elaborate Boredom.

  20. New project idea:

    1) Record some ambient street noise, dogs barking, Large Hadron Collider Implosion sounds, etc.
    2a) Feed through pitch corrector software
    2b) Feed pitch-corrected sounds into Songsmith
    3) Repeat 2a and 2b for around 40 cycles
    4) Add in some auto-generated lyrics
    5) Release into the singles chart
    6) Profit!!! and go to live on your newly-bought volcanic island with absolutely no secret nuclear lair at all, would I lie to you officer?
    7) ????
    8) World Domination

  21. Finally, an application for making music worthy of the Zune. Let’s see apple try to control the digital music market NOW!

  22. With a running time of ~4.5 minutes, I’m guessing this isn’t a “commercial,” but instead some kind of sales training video or the like. Doesn’t make it any less bad, but at least we can be relieved that we probably won’t run across it on television.

  23. I can easily see this leading to a lot of people in coffee shops being told to shut the hell up with the singing, and that Songsmith Karaoke night is every 2nd Thursday of the month at 8 pm.

  24. ZikZak

    Just like with pitch-correction software, I bet you can get some pretty awesome stuff out of such a complex system by torturing it until it screams out confused distorted muzak-derived madness.

    SO, you haven’t heard the plethora of middle-of-the-road autotune-turned-up-way-too-much pop muck, that began with Cher’s “Believe” (actually it didn’t use AutoTune, but it started a trend).

    Sadly the effect you describe is so badly cliched by now, you would have to be a true musical genius to pull it back from the grave. It is not “awesome” anymore.

  25. BrotherPower,

    Either way, I hope that thing comes with a “suck” knob/slider/whatever.

    I believe this variable is actually on a bitswitch, and is permanently set to 1.

  26. The true horror of this “technology” is yet to be revealed…

    Oh hell, I’m going to reveal it:

    Tone-deaf and off-key kids, teens and adults are going to record something with this and then upload it to their MySpace pages. If you thought MySpace couldn’t get any worse, well you were wrong.

  27. @arkizzle: Use a pitch map for a non-standard scale, like pentatonic or mixolydian and then process standard western music.

    Make time quantization fine, set the transition time to 0 and pitch correction to very sensitive with many possible half-tones to match to.

    Pitch match correct an orchestral or multi-tonal piece to one note.

    There’s plenty that’s been done and yet to be done with pitch correction – that’s the beauty of so many electronic instruments.

  28. Most of the folks in this video aren’t actually actors, they are computer scientists from Microsoft Research. Most of the locations in the video are around the Microsoft Research building (the kind of place where you will find 2D multi-color barcodes stuck to everything because someone developed them).

    It really isn’t supposed to be a professional commercial so much as a video based product demo for a first try at commercializing a clever algorithm, and judged by that standard it is not a bad attempt.

  29. I actually know Sumit (one of the researchers responsible for this, who also appears in the commercial); I worked with him somewhat while I was at Microsoft. I’m pretty sure that he knows how funny this seems.

    For the record, while I don’t plan on using this for anything, I do find the results somewhat impressive (in the same way that one might find a dancing bear impressive). There are some tricky problems that one has to solve in order to do this sort of thing even moderately well, I suspect.

    MSR is a lot more similar to academia than it is to most of the rest of Microsoft. This is far from the only goofy thing that they’ve done, and but for the occasional MS reference, the production (and acting) quality is about what I’d expect from a reasonably well-off university CS department doing the same thing.

  30. This is something put out by Microsoft research. And nowehre does it seem like it is meant to be a real product (ie- for sale for the general public).

    There are lots of very, very smart people who work for MSR. They do programming languages, operating systems, image processing, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Sometimes they do fun stuff that’s meant to inspire other ideas.

    This “commercial” is horrible, but I think the idea is really, really cool even if it doesn’t create music I’d want to listen to.

    As another example of what MSR puts out, check out this software for the XBox that allows kids to create their own video games. This is another great idea, but without the schlock:

    http://xbox360.ign.com/dor/objects/14310459/kodu/videos/ces2009sync_kodu_dem_010909.html

  31. I think the songsmith is pretty cool. It could be used to develop quick commercials for big and small businesses on sites like YouTube. Don’t get hung-up on the MS commercial – think about what you can do with it for your business. I will for my business.

  32. @29

    “This commercial is kind of glorious, although the software looks about as useful as band-in-a-box was.”

    I just wanted to defend the honor of a program for which I’ve always had a soft spot…

    Band-in-a-Box from PG Music is still a going concern, and it can be an incredibly useful teaching and rehearsal tool. Particularly for a student trying to sharpen improvisational skills. Any musician old enough to remember the Abersold records/tapes will attest to that. Nothing can replace having other warm bodies in the room, but you can’t always get a rhythm section to repeat the same thirty-two bars for you, for three hours straight… Hell, most times you’re lucky to keep a bassist -standing up- for three hours straight…

    Just kidding, bassists… Well, sort of…

    -lunk-

  33. This is a travesty against taste, even bad taste. That would imply someone liked it.

    This is like a musical “please-don’t-fire-us” message, with the cuts coming in Micorosft. I would imagien that research may be a hard hit unit.

    But if the video had atleast been funny/good it would have been fine. As I watched this I thought it might actually be a parody of Microsoft showing how they are trying to claw people back who use Garage Band on Mac. That would have been funny with them saying “Look we can be cool aswell!”.

  34. the guys in the video are the developers of songsmith. you look at the video differently when you know that.

  35. Ok, bad video (probably not a commercial so much as a MS Research conept video)

    Not the greatest product either, although it might be fun for kids or people who have no musical talent whatsoever (like myself)

    But, who owns the copyright on the music that the computer produces?

  36. This is the most offensive video I have ever seen this isn’t funny it’s shocking!

    What a sad piece of software, horrid!

  37. Wow! Reverse karaoke! Instead of playing schlocky background pablum and displaying hackneyed lyrics for you to sing, you sing the hackneyed lyrics and it comes up with the schlocky background pablum accompaniment! Truly an awesome achievement emblematic of Microsoft’s keen understanding of just what we need in a computer to make our lives better.

    But I, too, found this to be an intentionally silly and self-deprecating demo film, and in that sense it was a success.

  38. And another thing. Songsmith (C) or (TM) or (R) or whatever presumes that you have enough “talent” to at least come up with a basic melody and some lyrics that have a meter. If you don’t have that, what will this do for you?

  39. Didn’t 9/11 mean the end of irony anyway? I swear I read that somewhere… So really, all that’s going on here is that Microsoft is advertising for modern consumers, while everyone else is living in a fantasy world.

  40. So does Songsmith come with some sort of Autotune plug-in? Just listen to the little girl sing! Think you’d be better off buying a Casio keyboard than this. The music quality is about the same and the keyboard would be cheaper.

  41. Glow-In-The-Dark Towels is a HORRIBLE idea! The last thing I want to be exposed to when drying off is cancerous phosphorous! For shame, Microsoft.

    Wait, what was this about?

  42. This can mean one thing, Microsoft has become totally automated and is now algorithmically generating adverts. We should work fast to make sure Microsoft never becomes sentient and takes over the world.

  43. @zenbeatnik the bogus (c) was for the fictional glow in the dark product being sung about, not songsmith or anything produced with it. Presumably if one had such a product, one could arguably legitimately ™ the product name.

  44. Oh. Dear. God.

    I saw this commercial on YouTube, and thought it was for some long-defunct product made back in the 90s. This piece of shit is NEW? I think I may have spontaneously developed a brain tumor from exposure to this commercial.

  45. ZikZak, you’re right. But there are some artifacts of the process that are like red flags to an ear.

    As we both said in different ways, if you are creative and brave, there are gems to be had.

  46. @46 Arkizzle:

    ZikZak

    ” Just like with pitch-correction software, I bet you can get some pretty awesome stuff out of such a complex system by torturing it until it screams out confused distorted muzak-derived madness.”

    SO, you haven’t heard the plethora of middle-of-the-road autotune-turned-up-way-too-much pop muck, that began with Cher’s “Believe” (actually it didn’t use AutoTune, but it started a trend).

    Sadly the effect you describe is so badly cliched by now, you would have to be a true musical genius to pull it back from the grave. It is not “awesome” anymore.

    “Awesome” is not always an exact synonym for “original, never been done before”. It’s possible for something to be awesome even if someone’s already done something similar. And I’d bet the kind of bending zikzak had in mind was not the sort of thing that became a minor cliche of “pop muck” five to ten years ago. ;)

    That said, I don’t have high hopes for the accidental music created by bending this product. It’s a kids’ toy, and a not very imaginative one at that.

  47. Nose, I meant it light-heartedly. I’ve done enough experimental audio shredding to know that there is still gold hidden in the corners of the brightest rooms.

    The vocal-through-over-sensitive-Autotune technique has been raped, though.

  48. Its interesting how there used to be so many negative Microsoft posts on BB in the past few years…then the Microsoft sponsorships and ads showed up, and suddenly they can do no wrong.

  49. Didn’t you hear? Girl Talk will be in the next ad for this product. They’re paying him in blank CD-Rs.

  50. Golden!

    I’m puzzled when that one actor says, “Microsoft, huh? So it’s pretty easy to use?” Are there really any consumers who still associate the Microsoft brand with ease of use?

  51. Brilliant! I’ve been waiting for this for the last 20 years!

    Now I no longer have to waste my time choosing a preset or tampering with the tempo on my Casio Keytone!

  52. I lasted 51 seconds – it reminded me of

    a) a pre schooler kids show, brought to you by the word ‘Crap’
    b) whiny US kiddie accents present on Disney (R) products

  53. I would make a comment, but I still can’t stop laughing after “Microsoft, huh? So it’s pretty easy to use?” – admit it, that line made you all smile

  54. Yes. But why not link to the actual post on Videogum, rather than the home page?

    I suspect this is all part of an elaborate BoingBoing+Microsoft ARG.

    That’s my deepest hope, anyway.

  55. Ok, everyone has been asking for one. Here’s a deathmetal chaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeG-6bpeUkA

    I’m hoping someone a lot better with electronic music than me comes up with an excellent abuse of songsmith.

    Other than that, my second reaction is that the programming problems involved in this are pretty intense. Kudos to them for building a working program. I’m impressed (even if all the music is the complete antithesis of what I actively listen to).

    Also, thanks to all for the David Lee Roth links (and the Metallica one, I just listened to it and find myself needing another chaser…). Those were awesome.

  56. I once actually saw a Mormon Musical called “Saturday’s Warrior”. This is like that.

  57. Ow. Ow. Ow. Oh please. Oh God.

    I just listened to the Metafilter thread posted above. I’m laughing so hard my eyes are watering, my nose is running, and my chest hurts. I mean, really hurts.

    This could unquestionably be brought to Gitmo as a new torture device.

    To get the real pleasure, first listen to a few bars of the original, to remind yourself what it’s like, then listen to the terrible absurdity that is David Lee Roth screaming without musical backing, and then listen to him put through Songsmith.

    Warning: Do not do so at work, unless snorting, snarfing, and painfully trying to turn laughter into coughs is considered acceptable.

  58. rk –

    N, gt th snrk n th cmmnts fr sr, bt snc BB strtd tkng lwysSft’s mny, thy hv sr lssnd th bt thy sd t hv. Srchng th rchvs s qt rvlng. thght BB thght dffrntly.

  59. yes! yes! it’s all true! Cory is Bill’s little love monkey! Dave has been turning tricks for their affiliated hardware vendors, Xeni,…Xeni (sob,,, I can’t tell you … BWAAAAH It’s all true! I wish I was dead! BWAAHHHHH!

  60. (I see an awful opportunity for someone with Photoshop to reveal the true depths of corruption behind the scenes at bOINGbOING… I see goats, uniforms, Jobs ….)

  61. If I did it, I’d go too far.

    Also, nice to see your first thought was goats. A favourite revenge of me and my girlfriend was ‘Goating’ our enemies in PhotoShop.

    People look a lot less threatening when they appear to be enjoying sweet, sweet coitus with a devil-eyed bovid.

    Some things are just universal, I suppose.

  62. I believe this is a parody created by Apple to discredit Microsoft. Why else would it be so campy and feature an Apple computer?

    Very clever, Apple, but we’re wise to your shenanigans.

  63. Reminds me of Brave New World or 1984 and the rise of completely machine-generated music… the End is near indeed

  64. maybe it’s just truth in advertising…

    you know: “This product makes really crappy music. Look how crappy it is! These people sing really crappy songs, and it accompanies them with crappy music. The end. That’s all it does. We make no claims about quality.”

  65. why is she using a MacBook Pro, and I find that her name is Lisa, (an Apple computer from the 80’s)

  66. Freaky. Just a few hours ago, while lying in bed, I had an idea for a very similar software, just out of the blue.

Comments are closed.