The unexpected return of beloved Brazilian musician Elis Regina, who tragically passed away at the age of 36 in 1982, has become a source of both joy and ethical concerns. In a recent Volkswagen commercial celebrating the company’s 70th birthday in Brazil, Elis Regina is brought back to life through artificial intelligence (AI) to perform a soul-stirring duet with her daughter, Maria Rita, a Grammy-winning singer. While this technological marvel has moved millions of Brazilians to tears, it has also ignited a heated debate surrounding the ethical implications of AI in the music industry and society as a whole.
The Reappearance of Elis Regina
Elis Regina’s premature death in 1982 left Brazil in mourning, with one front page mourning the loss of “Brazil without Elis.” So when she recently reappeared on screen, performing alongside her daughter Maria Rita, it sparked scenes of catharsis and nostalgia across the country. Countless Brazilians, including Rosângela Lula da Silva, Brazil’s first lady, expressed their deep emotional connection to the performance.
The Ethical Debate
The AI-created collaboration between Elis Regina and her daughter has stirred discomfort and, in some cases, outrage. Critics question the ethics of resurrecting a deceased artist who could not have given her consent. Some individuals also recall Elis Regina’s strong opposition to Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, a regime that Volkswagen was known to have collaborated with. As a result, Brazil’s advertising watchdog, Conar, has launched an investigation into the ethical implications of using AI to bring back deceased individuals on screen.
Volkswagen has defended its viral campaign, emphasizing that the intention was to create a unique moment that reunited Elis Regina, one of the greatest singers in the history of Brazilian music, with her daughter, Maria Rita. The company claims that the production had the blessing of Elis Regina’s family. By altering the face of a female double through facial recognition software, Volkswagen aimed to give the impression that the iconic singer was performing. The controversy surrounding the campaign has sparked a discussion about the role of AI in society.
Emotional Impact and Artistic Expression
Elis Regina’s reappearance in the commercial has triggered a profound discussion about the future of technology and its emotional impact. Her eldest son, music producer João Marcello Bôscoli, appreciates how the advert has revealed the more emotional, playful, and artistic side of AI, which is often associated with fake news and memes. Bôscoli shares his emotional reaction to watching his mother’s deepfake renaissance, expressing how it allowed him to momentarily indulge in the fantasy of his mother singing with Maria Rita, who lost her own mother at a young age. The power of great music to evoke emotions, feelings, and ideas is exemplified through this campaign.
The Impact on Music Discovery
The collaboration between Elis Regina and Maria Rita in the commercial has reintroduced Elis’s iconic voice to a new generation of Brazilian fans. Since its release, the YouTube version of the commercial has garnered over 16 million views in just 10 days. Furthermore, Elis Regina’s songs have been streamed over 20 million times. Bôscoli hopes that foreign music enthusiasts, who have yet to discover his mother’s unparalleled talent, will follow in the footsteps of Brazilian fans and embark on a journey of musical discovery.
The resurrection of Elis Regina through AI in a Volkswagen commercial has sparked both joy and ethical concerns. While it has allowed Brazilians to reconnect with the legendary singer and experience powerful emotions, it has also raised questions about the ethical boundaries of using AI to bring back deceased individuals on screen. This thought-provoking campaign has ignited a debate about the future of technology, its impact on society, and the discovery of hidden musical treasures. Ultimately, it serves as a testament to the enduring power of great music to touch hearts and move people, even in the context of an advertising campaign.