(Photo Credit - Wix)
Most people who have had tried to find an ambient playlist for work, studying, or simply relaxing may have come across a few lo-fi tracks. This particular genre of music has risen in popularity in the past couple of years, with music videos with lo-fi beats garnering 218 million views due to the rise of artists like Clairo. Her album Immunity is filled with nostalgia flecked with a fresh dynamic, and as her success has proven, lo-fi is thriving and becoming increasingly popular with younger listeners, especially Gen-Z.
Clairo recreated a sound that so many young people of her generation resonated with: subdued, fuzzy, low-fidelity electronic pop that could be produced from a bedroom. Other artists have also emulated this sound, keeping lo-fi alive and well in the music industry.
What is Lo-fi?
“Lo-fi” stands for “low fidelity,” which is a term that describes music where imperfections are purposefully included to create a specific sound. Commonly used sounds included static and other background noises, sounds that would otherwise be considered no-go’s in the recording process. Lo-fi can be applied across genres as it applies to the method of how music is recorded. However, as The Boar points out, it is most popular in electronic and chill-hop music. The genre aims to create a feeling of comfort and nostalgia, and many songs following this format rely on a bass and snare combination referred to as a “boom-bap.” The sound was invented in the 1980s and many of the lo-fi songs today are still associated with the original sounds from that era. The sentimental value of lo-fi makes it especially attractive to audiences, who crave a more raw and genuine sound in contrast to the digitally manicured songs that we are bombarded with today.
Why Lo-fi is Thriving?
Technology and online shopping have made musical equipment much more accessible to the everyday consumer. This has led thousands of people to experiment with music from the comfort of their own homes. It seems that the previous generation's garage recordings have been replaced by bedroom beats, which is now the trend. Artists such as Joey Pecoraro have taken to making DIY recording booths right in their bedrooms, transforming the internet into a platform for creatives.
(Image Credit - Shout4Music) All people really need is a microphone, a computer, and loads of talent. The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a popular choice for a lot of these bedroom artists. It's one of the best vocal mics under $200. Plus, it comes with a condenser, despite its compact size. USB-connected mics like this may not be the crispest or most full-sounding, but they are optimized for recording voices – and that usually does the trick. For lo-fi sounds, you want to capture some external sound and keep a certain level of scratchy, raw quality to your mixes. Such sounds mimic the comfort presented by everyday noises, such as the sound of a traffic jam, birds chirping, or even some static. This is what makes it appealing to so many listeners, and what is currently helping the genre to thrive. Even retro headphones — like the Jlab Rewind, which are reminiscent of old Walkman headphones — are making a comeback to give that truly immersive experience.
(Image Credit - PCMag)
Lo-fi Artists on the Rise
Lo-fi artists have started to gain more recognition in niche spaces since lo-fi started to trickle into the mainstream. Ryan Celcius is now with an indie record label, like many other artists who now have their own playlists, labels, and even merchandise. Because of its low barrier to entry and high replay value, lo-fi artists can find great success.
Powfu is another example. This artist's hit "Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)" went viral on TikTok. The music video for this particular song currently has more than 401 million views on YouTube.
Oatmello, on the other hand, makes his tracks under labels ChilledCow Records and Fresh Selects, to name a few. Record labels are also now expanding to accommodate more lo-fi artists.
ZOD1AC found success in this genre by drawing influences from various genres including downtempo, jazz, ambient, and even classical. Mixed with contemporary production styles, his instrumentals found a place in the lo-fi hip-hop community, especially after his relationship with other artists grew stronger.
These artists have shown that, as the genre continues to thrive, listeners are becoming more concerned with the actual sound and accessibility of their music rather than how it was produced. For artists, this means more freedom and a greater connection to their audience. Understanding the relationship we have with music is a crucial part of how we listen and recognize its place in our lives, as we previously talked about in another Alt Revue post. There’s something special about listening to something modern made to sound like it's from the past. It reminds us that music holds personal histories, no matter when they're made.