Jack Freer, Contributing Writer
The simple title of this article likely triggered a recollection for many of you. The famous YouTube thumbnail, a seemingly eternal livestream of a girl writing in front of a window with headphones: the lo-fi girl – a fundamental fixture of YouTube. You may even tune in occasionally – many bob their heads a little bit, enjoy the good vibes, then quickly move on from the style. Lo-fi music means a lot to me though. It is music that is carefully designed to create an emotional response. There are different styles, but the instrumental pitched down, slow hip-hop production influenced style is most common, occasionally blended with other genres. There is an overwhelming number of YouTube mixes from a variety of producers that specifically work to replicate that style today.
At its base, lo-fi is generally intended to evoke nostalgia. This happens by decreasing the quality of a recording or sample and, when done correctly, this can make a song seem strongly nostalgic. It has led to a wave of modern hip-hop producers that incorporate classic samples and work to create musical tapestries using music from the legends of old. It is a world culture, blending music across the planet, and stands as a powerfully simple method to achieve focus. Interestingly enough, I most commonly see it used by students to focus on work or mundane tasks, getting into a groove and adding a positive vibe to the day. I started thinking more about this idea last week when I shared the album “Life,” by the excellent producer Jinsang, with my girlfriend just to see what she’d think. After we finished the album, she said she felt like she focused far better on her work and finished the assignment smoothly. I ran a bit of an experiment to see what she would enjoy, sharing a number of YouTube mixes and a couple albums by one of my favorite producers: Phoniks. She liked that there were no lyrics, and found the samples engaging enough that she could get into a groove. She said that she’s now interested in listening more, and liked the possibility of getting work done more smoothly.
My girlfriend’s observations were similar to my earliest experiences with the style. I discovered lo-fi when I was in eighth grade and I found that it tuned out the distracting noises around me while doing work. The frequently repeating rhythms would get my brain on track and didn’t present a distraction, instead lulling me into focus. Lo-fi is a powerful style that I hope to explore more in future articles, but for now, I hope you’ll take my suggestion: Try some lo-fi!