NPR logo Tasting 'Bitter Honey,' Tongue in Cheek

Tasting 'Bitter Honey,' Tongue in Cheek

Ballad of Bitter Honey

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Monday's Pick

  • Song: "The Ballad Of Bitter Honey"
  • Artist: Eef Barzelay
  • CD: Bitter Honey
  • Genre: Folk-Pop

Eef Barzelay knows how to mix humor and heartbreak. As leader of the band Clem Snide, he's sung from the perspective of folk-pop lightweight Jewel and conspiracy theorist David Icke, and he's concocted cello-tinged odes to the music of Nick Drake, the uncertainty of the future, and a life spent wasting away on the couch.

Eef Barzelay, a wry storyteller with a dark side. Alix Barzelay hide caption

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Alix Barzelay

While he's at it, Barzelay frequently explores the dark underbelly of vanity, as his new solo album Bitter Honey finds him wishing that a loved one would die, "just to see how I would look." "The Ballad Of Bitter Honey" finds Barzelay adopting the persona of a scantily clad dancer in a hip-hop video featuring Ludacris — within a few seconds he lays the groundwork for a tongue-in-cheek look at a show-business bit player.

But the singer's gift for intertwining wryness with warmth takes over by the second verse, as his subject's back story begins to fill out: a death in the family, a side road to nursing school, a philosophy of getting ahead in life. By the end, Barzelay finds appropriately bittersweet profundity in what had once seemed like a throwaway joke.

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