Is Lo-Fi the Smooth Jazz of the New Generation?

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Sep 4, 2020 . 3 min read

Is Lo-Fi the Smooth Jazz of the New Generation?

Is lo-fi the smooth jazz of the new generation? No. It is not. Lo-Fi is not the smooth jazz of the generation. But what is Lo-fi after all?

Lo-fi stands for low definition. The term is not a new one. In fact, it has been used for years. It was and still is employed to describe a lower quality in recording. But what does that mean? Well, several things. It can be recordings made with cheap microphones and gear. It can also be recordings made by a less experienced musician. 

These recordings may also include dogs barking in the background, mom yelling, kids playing video games, etc. In other words, anything that is not considered appropriate from a traditional music recording standpoint. Interestingly, the term hi-fidelity was used to describe a desirable quality in recordings and record players. There’s even a famous movie that employs that term, about a record store owner. 

Lo-fi today

High fidelity does not seem to be as cool today. That is because there is a new trend in music. It is called lo-fi. It does retain some of that vibe of cheap recordings. However, it has come to mean something different. It refers to a specific sound. And it is prevalent especially in hip hop that is consumed via YouTube. Yes, it is that specific. It is a fact that its popularity is increasing daily. However, it cannot be compared to smooth jazz.

Smooth Jazz

Smooth jazz became very popular in the 80s and 90s. It is basically a form of mostly instrumental music that employs improvisation. And that’s where the similarities with jazz end. Smooth Jazz was intended for a broader audience.  It carried none of the experimental approach or boldness that was a trait of jazz music. But smooth jazz did reach a bigger audience. Smooth jazz also produced a lot more money than traditional and modern jazz. As a result, incredible jazz players like guitarist George Benson started playing smooth jazz. They were very criticized for this. They also became rich because of this. Smooth jazz radio and recordings have enjoyed immense popularity since the 80s. Hell, there’s even a smooth jazz cruise that is always fully booked.

Lo-fi and smooth jazz

Did you read the paragraph above? Then you probably inferred that lo-fi has very little to do with smooth jazz. And that is the truth. For starters, there’s no lo-fi radio. Also, there are no major artists that switched to lo-fi to make more money or appeal to a broader audience. There is another major difference between the two. Lo-fi appeals to a younger generation. Smooth jazz appealed to a much older demographic. Lo-fi is not considered a genre. Smooth jazz is. There certainly isn’t a lo-fi cruise. And lastly, there is not an absolutely hated musician in lo-fi. On the other hand, smooth jazz has Kenny G. Traditional and modern jazz folks despise Kenny G. And he is also very rich. 

Lo-fi and smooth jazz became popular in a relatively short time. Perhaps that is the only similarity that they share. But the world today is quite different from how it was in 1980. The channels of distribution have changed. People consume music in a different way. Is there any chance that lo-fi will become the smooth jazz of the new generation? I surely hope not. For the sake of lo-fi. Leave us your favorite Kenny G joke in the comments section below. 

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