A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there are many empowering messages that celebrate feeling good about yourself and not giving in to negativity. That said, there are a few sexy moments, like when Blige sings about her "sexy boy," but nothing too explicit. T.I.'s guest appearance does include a few references to drinking. Although a few of the positive messages might cross the line into self-absorption, for the most part this album should give girls in particular a role model that doesn't let anyone keep them down.
What's the story?
The clouds are parting and the sun is shining as veteran soul singer Mary J. Blige releases her ninth studio album, STRONGER WITH EACH TEAR. Despite the title, this time around there's not much crying being done by the pop diva. Blige, known for her heart-wrenching songs of loneliness and betrayal, is all about happiness this time around. The change is also accompanied by a more dense sound, full of traditional Motown instrumentals and 70s funk. Look for "I Can See In Color" from the motion picture Precious.
Is it any good?
At first listen, this album appears to be a corporate attempt to keep Blige relevant to a young audience accustomed to heavily-produced tracks featuring lots of guest rappers, peppy hooks, and emotionally safe songs. But there's nothing gimmicky about Blige's strong vocal presence. Just because she's kicked the blues doesn't mean she's lost her soulful voice, and her incredible sound takes on a whole new layer with this reinvention. It's hard to be in a bad mood listening to tracks like "Good Love" and "I Feel Good," while songs like "Each Tear" and "I Can See in Color" ground the positive vibe in a spirit of resurrection. These are songs from a singer who has earned the right to be happy, not someone just singing joyful pop jingles.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's important for girls to have strong female role models in the media. Can you name some empowering female artists? How do they differ from other women in the industry? What can girls learn from lyrics that focus on standing up for yourself?
How is music used to market technology, like cell phones and computers? Blige's single "The One" was used to advertise a cell phone. Do you think the music industry has partnered with technology companies because of the advancements in music technology? Does a cell phone or music player become more appealing to you if one of your favorite artists is promoting it?
Families can talk about racy lyrics. This album has a few sexy lines, but nothing too explicit. How can families set limits on sexual songs? What can parents do to help kids select appropriate music?