ChilledCow. ChilledCow. ChilledCow. No, this isn’t a weird milkshake. ChilledCow, the YouTube channel that live streams lofi beats, has gained popularity among MVHS students, and the name is now closely associated with the lofi music genre itself. The channel livestreams the playlists “lofi beats to relax and study to” and “lofi beats to sleep and chill to.” Sophomore Priscilla Cho discovered ChilledCow’s playlists and began listening to lofi during the beginning of quarantine.
“One day, I went onto YouTube without my mom’s permission,” Cho said.” “And then I just searched up a playlist to listen to while studying and then I started listening to lofi from then, because I was like, ‘Oh, this is a type of music I’ve never heard of before.’ And then it just went from there … It’s kind of a mix between ASMR and, depending on the kind of lofi you listen to, hip hop or jazz.”
Lofi music, or low fidelity music, often emphasizes elements such as vinyl and rain sound effects, as well as samples of voices from T.V. shows, movies and anime.
“I kind of like those sounds because they’re very random, but at the same time in the one song that you’re listening to you’re consistent,” Cho said. “So, once you start listening to it, you get used to it, and then it becomes something that starts sounding better the more that you get used to it.”
Senior Eugene Yoon feels that these sound effects — a common thread throughout all lofi songs — personalize the relatively diverse genre. Yoon appreciates that the sampled voices aren’t aggressive and instead, add a layer of comfort by being randomly dispersed throughout the song. For him, lofi is perfect to listen to while working.
“It kind of provides me with a sense of a cafe-like atmosphere, almost,” Yoon said. “If you hear the vinyl records and the people talking in the background, it’s almost as if you’re in a library or something, and libraries and cafes are pretty much the places where people tend to work the best, from asking people around me and my own personal experiences.”
Not only do MVHS students listen to lofi, but some, such as senior Conner Yin, has uploaded a few self-made lofi tracks onto his YouTube channel. In order to contribute to the beat’s mood, he searches for free vinyl and rain sound effects online to incorporate into his music, adding in these effects later in his creative process.
“I usually experiment on my piano a little bit to find out what chords I want to use,” Yin said. “And then once I kind of figure out which chord sequence I want, I figure out the melody on the right hand, what I want to do. And after that I plug everything into FL Studio, and then experiment with the drums and other instruments I want to add, like guitar, or if I want to add electric piano, sounds like that.”
For junior Matthew Sun, his lofi track making process involves running a song through a self-coded computer program to transform it into a lofi remix.
“The process was to find the BPM and just add a drum track to it,” Sun said. “And then I added a rain track and a crackly noise to pretend like it was a vinyl getting played. And then I have a few other filters that I use. One would reduce the quality basically. So, it sounds more old, essentially; then one removes the higher frequencies of the music, since old music or old CDs weren’t able to record the high frequencies.”
Sun’s tracks generally have a lower BPM, beats per minute, meaning the song is slower and easier to relax to. To Yoon, this makes the track easygoing, establishing the “gentle character” of lofi. He finds this to be a relaxing contrast from pop songs, which often make him more hyper. When needed, Yoon has always enjoyed being able to hum a simple lofi tune and stay in a relaxed state.
“First semester of junior year finals, I was pretty stressed out, and listening to these wild KPop songs and those Japanese pop songs were not working out because it was very hard for me to keep up to the upbeat tempo of those songs and still concentrate,” Yoon said. “It just ended up making my heart beat faster and got more stressed out. So when I found lofi, it had a very steady beat to most songs that matched my own heart rate. So it felt like the song was almost like a human to me, like my own companion.”
While Yoon feels that he is able to better concentrate on his studies by listening to lofi, Cho also finds solace in lofi’s uplifting beats when she feels down. On a similar note, Yin finds that it helps him alleviate stress.
“I feel like a very common thing to do is when you’re feeling sad, something that naturally happens is that people are drawn to sad music because they can relate to it and they can understand it and they feel validated that they can feel sad,” Cho said. “But I feel like if I do that, then it’s a really bad habit that just makes me feel worse in the end, so if lofi is sort of a very secondary thing where the more oftentimes upbeat vibe of the music in general just makes me feel a little bit lighter, and that makes it a little bit easier to focus on better things or be distracted away from negative parts of my mood.”
“If I’m feeling a certain way or if I’m really feeling really stressed out, then maybe I’ll write something to help me relax, and then hopefully other people in that situation will be able to relax as well,” Yin said. “I know whenever I’m feeling stressed out, I’ll just sit down at the piano and play out some tunes.”
As Yin enjoys producing his tracks, he foresees continuing to do so as long as people keep listening to them. According to Yoon, Yin and him are relatively close and share similar music tastes.
“I do like his samples,” Yoon said. “I think something that is crucial to a lofi song is not the lofi itself but also the visual that the lofi video provides. A lot of these lofi YouTube thumbnails might be like nature or stars. And I feel like that adds to the entire calmness of a song, and I feel like Conner’s pictures on his lofi songs are really pretty. So it almost reinforces the entire validity of the song.”
Sometimes Yin listens to his own tracks while he works, and when Yin is finishing his creative process, he also plays it for his family and friends to receive feedback. His friends seem to agree that lofi is especially conducive to productivity and relaxation.
“So one thing that I’ve been doing recently is, I get on a Discord call with my friends whenever we’re either just working or playing games, and we’ll play lofi in the background,” Yin said. “There’s music bots, so that you can add it to the call. And then we’ll all listen to the lofi together while doing things, and just kind of provides a nice background, and it’s nice knowing that we’re all listening to the same thing at the same time.