Ed Sheeran and Alexa FI

Alexa Replaces Justin Bieber in a Remake of Ed Sheeran’s Top Single “I Don’t Care”

Ed Sheeran released a new album this week and one of the top singles is a duet with Justin Bieber called “I Don’t Care.” As part of the album’s promotion, he created a second version where Alexa’s voice is substituted for Justin Bieber’s parts. When you ask Alexa to sing a duet with Ed Sheeran, you get a version of “I Don’t Care” that musically sounds faithful to the original other than the vocalists. But, you shouldn’t expect Alexa to sing. Instead, she speaks the lines like a modern day Lou Reed sans nuance, emotion, and grit.

Below you can listen to a clip of Alexa with Ed Sheeran courtesy of Amazon Music. You can also listen to the official YouTube video for the song with Justin Bieber. You decide which is better.

Alexa as a Cultural Icon

One aspect of voice assistant adoption that has consistently surprised me is how quickly Alexa became integrated into popular culture. Amazon Echo showed up on Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, and South Park in 2017. Since then, movie releases such as Dunkirk and Jurassic World have included Alexa skills as part of their launch promotions while Westworld created a skill just for super fans. There are countless other examples as of mid-2019. Google has also worked to associate Google Assistant with popular culture including earlier this year when the company added John Legend as a default voice option.

For any of these entertainment and culture laced promotions to work, consumers need to have a base level awareness of the voice assistants even if they don’t personally have access to one. Then again, everyone in the U.S. has access these days as multiple voice assistants are available on essentially all smartphones sold and awareness is now high. That wasn’t as true two years ago but those earlier efforts likely increased awareness to the point that it is even easier to use voice assistants as a touchstone for a promotional stunt.

It is also interesting that entertainers can benefit from the publicity of being associated with Alexa and to a lesser extent Google Assistant. Many technology products can benefit from an association with a cultural icon such as a pop star. Alexa has become so ubiquitous, and largely well-liked, that it can safely claim its own status as a cultural icon.

Great Promotion for Alexa and More Exposure for Sheeran

Ed Sheeran seems to be doing just fine and likely didn’t need the Alexa-boost. However, dozens of tech publication have run stories on his new album that would have never thought to mention its passing without the Alexa tie-in. Amazon clearly gets a boost for Alexa because Sheeran has such a large global fan base. And, there are actually a few Alexa versions of the song including some that suggest Sheeran set a reminder that he doesn’t like parties or have Alexa remember something in the same vein. That is an indirect way of highlighting Alexa features that consumers may find valuable. This promotion is likely to be soon forgotten, but for July 2019 it is having the intended effect for both Amazon and Sheeran.

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