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How Lo-Fi Study Girl became a Web Icon

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

Written by: Nadia Evangelina

The animation of a little girl with headphones studying at her desk next to her cat, which is broadcast every day, 24 hours a day, all over the world on YouTube, has become the new Internet phenomenon. This video is played in a loop to the rhythm of lo-fi hip hop songs, whose relaxing beats have managed to bring millions of faithful followers. The account, created by the user Chillhop Cow, has an average of 30,000 daily viewers and currently has over seven million subscribers, but how has this simple video achieved such success?

First of all, Study Girl is a character created by the artist Pablo Machado. However, the original version was directly inspired by Shizuku Tsukishima, star of Studio Ghibli's film Whispers of the Heart (1995). The film tells the story of Shizuku, a Japanese schoolgirl who loves literature. She lives with her parents and sister in a cozy apartment in Tokyo and spends her free time writing in a messy dormitory studio. The shot of the girl studying has served as a visual foundation. But, as you can imagine, copyright issues soon arose and the YouTube account quickly had to be removed. The new girl has a different hairstyle, clothes, and room. During the day, the view from her window seems to indicate that she moved out of Tokyo, and during the night, Machado delights listeners with some images of rain that add to the lo-fi experience.

Aesthetics are fundamental to understanding the fascination. Whether it is for relaxing, studying, or working, the color selection is more than enjoyable to the eyes of internet users. The color palette is dominated by dull and opaque colors that help create an atmosphere of tranquility and concentration. Another important element is that the creator could only use an image that accompanies the music which is, after all, the most important thing. Nevertheless, the animation is decisive. The subtle movements of the girl writing, the cat's tail, or the rain falling help the audience not to get bored with a static image but at the same time, it is an animation that is not invasive enough so as not to distract attention. In addition, as mentioned above, the environments change as the hours go by as if you wanted to portray the real passage of time.

The feeling of melancholy is also present in the music. A very particular and millennial downtempo sounds in the Study Girl broadcast. Lo-fi is a musical genre that emerged mainly from the mix between hip hop and jazz but with a different approach, less commercial, and more aesthetic. The low quality of the sound is the most distinguishable characteristic. But the clarity of the sound, which at one time was due to lack of resources, is intentional in a way that makes it more pleasing to the ear. The reasons for this choice can be various, partly as an act of artistic rebelliousness, partly to achieve the democratization of musical production. Its spirit is above all nostalgic and homely.

This type of music has succeeded in destroying barriers to access to music and to give free rein to creativity. Throughout these years, the Internet has given voice to many emerging artists that started to create from their homes without the support of the industry. And someone has listened to them. It could be said that this style of music is an aspect of independent music. But many others relate it to the figure of the Japanese producer Nujabes. In the early 2000s, he created a new wave of "soft, nostalgic, atmospheric sound" music. In any case, this genre keeps adding followers who want to forget about daily stress or who are looking for concentration to carry out their respective duties.

Lo-fi is here to stay, especially in a world where anxiety, care, and stress are the order of the day. The Chillhop Cow channel was born to be a perfect companion, supported by music, visuals, and live interaction with thousands of users. The relaxing effect of lo-fi music makes it ideal for this purpose. The songs are selected in advance and the transmissions do not require someone to be behind the equipment at all times. In turn, the usually instrumental pieces create atmospheres so pleasant that you can hear them over and over again. In this way, the audience discovers new music every day. At the same time, these YouTube channels can be considered as an evolution of the consumption of playlists or Spotify playlists.

The eternal student has become in a short time the face of lo-fi music on YouTube. A resident of the lo-fi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to, she has created a fan base, become a meme, and entered the homes of millions of people. Probably the girl studying infinitely or the identification with her space is a key to understanding the phenomenon.

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