Lo-Fi Music Offers Soothing Soundscapes with Nostalgic Appeal


Lo-Fi Girl/YouTube

Lo-fi girl is a streaming YouTube Channel featuring “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to” and is very popular among students.

This picture has become one of the most famous and iconic internet images of the past few years. As a thumbnail from the YouTube channel ‘Lofi Girl,’ the picture has attracted millions and millions of viewers immersed in the aesthetics of the non-stop Lo-fi music radio. Yes, the video offers nothing more than chill Lo-fi tunes playing throughout the stream, which seem interminable, but still, somehow manage to maintain tens of thousands of real-time viewers.

‘Lofi girl’ gained such a large audience in a short period that it passed the 10-million subscriber mark only five years after the channel was established. Lo-fi is now a powerful influence in many people’s daily lives: they listen to Lo-fi to study, to sleep, to drive —  you name it.

Low-Fidelity or Lo-fi is a style of music that tends to sound distorted, damaged, and scratched, but in a subtle manner. The intention behind this style is to provide listeners with a nostalgic experience as if they were listening to these tracks through an old speaker or on a cassette player. In an interview with the online publication Hypebeast, producer idealism explains that “[Nostalgia] is a very easy and powerful emotion to tap into. It makes people daydream and reflect on their lives, and it creates a deeper and personal attachment to the music, which I think is fantastic.”

Excerpts from old movies, jingles from the 80s, hip hop from the 90s, and VHS sound effects are commonly used throughout Lo-Fi. Bossa nova and swing samples are also regular ingredients since the objective of this genre is to sound as jazzy as possible. These audio clips are modified, trimmed, slowed down, and creatively edited to construct a song, and this process is known as ‘sampling,’ also a critical component of Lo-fi.

One notable aspect of the Lo-fi community is that teens and young adults make up a large proportion of the market. For these younger generations, nostalgia might not be the main reason for their bonding to this genre. Although Lo-fi music might sound like it doesn’t have a lot of variation and may sound similar to one another, the range of genres that can be sampled has become unlimited. The genre did start off with sampling decades-old audio snippets, but now, almost every famous song has a Lo-fi version: songs from Billboard’s Top 100, opening and ending soundtracks for TV shows, music from video games, the list goes on.

Listeners discover in Lo-fi a remix of their favorite songs and find the beats “perfect for relaxing, studying, sleeping, or just existing,” as student Doyoung K. explains. He further adds that “It’s a welcome distraction that helps you concentrate, like having your own background theme in life.

The Lo-fi clout didn’t only affect people’s taste in music, but it has also brought a new viewpoint of music production to the music industry. Success in the music industry is all about marketing, and it costs a fortune to make small artists’ names known to the public without backing from major corporations. The concept of music is now heavily commercialized, losing its artistic quality.

However, this is not the case for Lo-fi. Most artists do everything individually, from production to releasing to marketing. That is why such artists can distribute their music without heavily copyrighting their works, and channels like ‘Lofi Girl’ can thrive on Youtube, a platform notorious for its copyright strikes. It’s a win-win deal: artists supply such channels with new music to play, while the channels promote the music to its large audience. Some even look at Lo-Fi as a democratization of music. Everyone can participate and enjoy rather than a select few big-budget studios.

Regardless of all that, “[Lofi hip-hop] is calming and relaxing to listen to. It can help you de-stress and clear your mind, to forget your problems or deal with them in a better way that makes you feel more peaceful,” explained lo-fi producer eevee.

Just clear your mind, chill, and vibe through it, and you’ll understand the art of Lo-fi very soon.