Alternative medicine advocates point to natural remedies opposed to mass produced medications. An interesting parallel can be found in the music industry. Many bash pop music for its simplistic, cookie-cutter style, but to spin this point on its head, pop music is denigrated for being a purer form of enjoyment, perfected through time.

Pop music stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers regardless of what a person’s intellectual opinion on the music is (papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1742971). Further, simple, catchy songs result in a release of dopamine as the brain successfully anticipates melodies (sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811909013068). This leads to a number of interesting connections. The human mind experiences a high when it correctly anticipates the ending of a melody, which provides a disincentive to the inventive. The mind wants to hear familiar, predictable chord changes (For example, youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I, youtube.com/watch?v=JdxkVQy7QLM or youtube.com/watch?v=F4ALd-Top2A). These familiar patterns then get used repetitively because, as “the fittest” musical ideas, they survive through many generations of memes. The question one has to ask then is what is the purpose of art. We have succeeded at discovering the formula for a musical high just as surely as we have discovered the formula for any number of mass produced medicines with few side effects which in a vast majority of cases have predictable results on the human body.

If one listens to music for enjoyment then one is, in light of this, forced to admit that pop music is the epitome of music. Any more cerebral forms are the musical equivalent of homeopathy; a rejection of systematically tested results. Alternative Medicine is medicine which lacks proven results, in the same way, perhaps, alternative music lacks the ability to efficiently stimulate the brain.

Now, certainly one can easily make the argument that music is not meant purely for enjoyment, but even a more cerebral form of music is ultimately intended to bring enjoyment to the listener, just in a different (diluted) form. By subverting predictable melodies one represses desire and furthers the chain of desire which must ultimately lead nowhere, to the hole that is the objet a. One falls prey to the hipster’s dilemma. One must not enjoy this (pop music), but instead enjoy its absence elsewhere. The superego dictates that what one should enjoy is not what immediately satisfies, but rather what sublimates, represses and turns aside enjoyment. Why else the well known saying “you probably haven’t heard of it/them.” Because the hipster denies their immediate pleasure derived from pop music so that they may later redeem it in linguistified form when they receive status for their denial of pleasure.

Here the biological connection again resurfaces with Foucault’s discussion of the history of sexuality. Briefly, only in controlling one’s impulse (to seek immediate gratification) can one be seen as having mastery. The result of avoiding pop music is not to eliminate desire, but to maintain it through the denial of consummation. Through self-control one endures the lack of the desired, and only through its lack do they heighten the excitement of the experiences that they allow themselves.

Willow bark may alleviate the pain of those who avoid the concentration of aspirin, but to do so is to abandon the enlightenment’s legacy of humanity’s ever expanding mastery over its surroundings; as is foregoing pop music in favor of more esoteric genres.