Holly Herndon has long been standing at the intersection of music, Web3, and AI. She was there alone for years, and labels are just now clumsily catching up, but most artists continue to steer clear of it entirely, whether due to moral concerns, aesthetic distaste, or ignorance. In July 2021, she premiered a project she’d been working on for years: Her “digital twin,” Holly+, is a groundbreaking software that will allow fans and cynics alike to “upload polyphonic audio and receive a download of that music sung back in Herndon’s distinctive voice,” according to a press release. And today, Holly+ has returned with her first official solo release: a deepfake cover of Dolly Parton’s lovelorn country classic “Jolene.”
Holly’s “Jolene” is an eerie rendition that quickly enters the uncanny valley and sets up a tent there. Picking through it with prior knowledge of its method of creation may yield a few small glimpses of its digital backdrop — stilted phrasings here and there that leave the slightest metallic taste in the listener’s mouth — but you’d be hard pressed to hear any of those without knowing the track’s origins. The song arrives alongside a surreal visual treatment courtesy of Sam Rolfes’ Team Rolfes, complete with custom Holly+ avatars.
Watch the video for Herndon’s “Jolene” deepfake cover, featuring a custom Holly+ avatar created by Sam Rolfes’ Team Rolfes, above. And listen to Jordan Darville’s discussion with Herndon about Holly+ and more on the 12th episode of The FADER Interview podcast.