Cryptomnesia, Pt. II: Kesha and Everclear

Five years ago I wrote about an Artifex Pereo song that appeared to lift one melodic line and half its lyrics from an old NOFX song. Rather than intentional theft, what I suggested may have happened was a case of cryptomnesia, a fascinating word which describes an odd phenomenon. Cryptomneisa is when you learn something, forget about it and then remember it, except that, having forgotten that you previously knew it, you think it’s a new idea. This is not an unheard of occurrence among musicians but, when it happens, it’s interesting to consider.

The most recent example I’ve come across is the Kesha song, “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)”, a country-tinged ballad featuring Dolly Parton. Before getting to the winsome, dueling vocals of its female leads, “Old Flames” marches through its initial chord progression with what sounds to be a synth playing the lead. And that opening is eerily reminiscent of the intro sequence of Everclear’s “The Honeymoon Song” which trades in the power chords for a ukulele and the synth for a steel guitar. There’s no debating that there are differences in these passages—one is primarily electric while the other is primarily acoustic, one is four bars while the other is eight, etc.—but they are very similar. So I’m forced to conclude that Kesha was an Everclear fan growing up which, actually, wouldn’t be that big a stretch.

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