I was moping in front of my webcam just now, trying on different crying poses, (as one does), and I was thinking to myself. Self, I said, "If you're so funny then why are you on your own tonight?" Good question, self. "Love is natural and real," I thought, "but not for such as you and I my love." And the funny thing is, as the tears started to gather in the corners of my eyes, and the metaphoric soil started falling over my head, I felt something strange -- I felt happy. In fact that's how I normally feel when I listen to mopey music. What's that all about?
I've always thought the reason I liked sad bastard music so much was for the usual reasons -- I was fat in grade school, my real father abandoned me when I was four, and scenester chicks fall for that schtick all the fucking time.
Nope, that's not it. San Francisco Classical Voice (via a fellow Smiths fan at Flavorwire) has finally uncovered the real answer I'm such a pussy: science.
An Ohio State professor at the School of Music and Center for Cognitive Science named David Huron has a theory why some people like sad music, like The Smiths, for example, and others don't. It's because the people who don't have shit taste and no soul.
It actually has to do with a chemical in the brain called prolactin, which sounds like something mothers with lactile dysfuntion would buy off an infomercial -- for that certain part of the female anatomy -- but is roughly analagous to dopamine as I understand it. Or maybe it's the opposite of dopamine? You know how science is.
"People who enjoy sorrowful music are experiencing the consoling effects of prolactin, a hormone that is usually associated with pregnancy and lactation but that the body also releases when we’re sad or weeping," the article explains. People who don't like sad music don't share the prolactin experience.
The effect of prolactin, Huron said during an interview, is “a bit like Mother Nature wrapping her arms around you, consoling you, and saying, ‘There, there; it’s okay.’
“When you have a grief experience — like your dog dies — you get a prolactin release that prevents the grief from getting out of hand. Imagine if you could fool the brain into thinking your dog died, but at the end of the day, it didn’t. These subcortical structures start going into grief mode, and you get this prolactin, which is the brake on the grief. But the cognitive part of the brain says, ‘Who are you kidding? Your dog didn’t die; this is just music.’ So the cortical, conscious part of the brain is sending signals to the subcortical structure, saying, ‘Turn it off, there’s no reason to be sad.’ Now you have the prolactin release without the psychic pain. So at the end of the day, you’re actually feeling quite good.”I take that to mean I'm genetically superior to most shitty pop fans, but I could be misreading things. Keep in mind this is all coming from a guy who'll be paying off tens in thousands of dollars in debt for the rest of his life that he spent on learning how to write bloody awful poetry, so it's usually a good idea to go back and check my calculations when it comes to anything more complicated than "this song gave me a sad."
hat tip to Kristen for the link.