Ten Music Poster Image


Smash debut fuses classic rock with aggressive grunge.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Most of the scenarios in the songs on Pearl Jam's debut album, Ten, are pretty unsavory, but the hit song "Alive," in which a mother unapologetically tells her son that the man he thought was his father isn't, is a sort of survivor song. The young man's situation is bad, but the refrain says, "I'm still alive."

Positive role models

There are a couple of mild love songs on Ten, but many of the songs are about boys or young men who are damaged or just disappointed that they didn't get any of their father's attention. The song "Why Go" seems to be about a girl whose mother has put her in a mental institution.


Violent images -- blood, knives, a bomb -- are often used figuratively to express strong emotions. In "Once," for example, the "bomb" in the singer's head symbolizes the feeling of his head pounding, and the "16-gauge buried under my clothes" is possibly not actually a gun. In "Jeremy," however, the violence is straightforward: The boy in the song, who was thought to be a "harmless little f--k," is ignored by his parents and teased by other kids, and he reacts by biting "the recess lady's breast."


The song "Once" contains a lot of sexual tension. "Black" includes the image of a woman's spread-out body. Also, the band name Pearl Jam is a euphemism for sperm.


About half of the songs on the album use "f--k"; it's used as a curse word, not to describe intercourse.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One song, "Deep," mentions "sinking a needle in."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the imagery in the songs on Pearl Jam's debut album, Ten, is fairly disturbing: They are largely peopled with damaged, unloved kids of indifferent parents; there's a bullying victim ("Jeremy") and even the odd mental patient ("Why Go"). There are also a couple of tracks about lost love ("Black," "Porch"), but most are anthems for tense, angry teenagers. Ten was a huge commercial success when it was released in 1991. The sound of the album rests somewhere between classic rock and the hardcore grunge of Nirvana, and the release was well-received by fans of both genres.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

At a time when mainstream country acts and boy bands were topping charts, Pearl Jam and other grunge bands were a breath of fresh air for rock 'n' roll fans. TEN, the band's debut, straddled the line between classic rock and grunge with aggressive but melodic guitar-based arrangements, gritty lyrics, and anthemic vocals from lead singer Eddie Vedder. Pearl Jam, along with other acts like Nirvana, ushered in the hugely popular grunge genre. Ten was a No. 2 album in 1992, and several songs on the album cracked Billboard's Top 20.

Is it any good?


Pearl Jam's influences range from punk to metal to psychedelia. Melodies and guitar riffs are strong and catchy, and the band's lyrics tackle some brutal material. The core of Pearl Jam's sound, however, is Eddie Vedder's throaty, passionate singing. Kids who "discover" this band will likely find the lyrics poetic and significant, and be captivated by Vedder's singular voice.

However, the same qualities that made Pearl Jam more accessible than other grunge acts when they broke in the early '90s now make the band seem relatively mainstream. Pearl Jam's musical approach was never as dynamic or provocative as Nirvana's, for example, and this album doesn’t hold up as a life-changer the way the latter band's Nevermind does.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Pearl Jam's music is different from, or similar to, other grunge/alt-rock bands that hit in the early 1990s -- Nirvana or Soundgarden, for example.

  • What is the statement being made about the young man in "Alive"?

  • Why do you think "Jeremy" -- about a neglected, bullied child who loses control -- was so popular when it was released? (It rose to No. 5 on the charts.)

Music details

Artist:Pearl Jam
Release date:August 27, 1991
Label:Sony Music
Genre:Alternative Rock
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Parental advisory:No
Edited version available:No

This review of Ten was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Nevermind Music Poster Image
    Grunge breakthrough delivers massive guitars and angst.
  • Pearl Jam Twenty Movie Poster Image
    Music comes first in commemorative grunge-rock docu.
  • Pearl Jam Music Poster Image
    Rock infused with political and social messages.
  • Out of Exile Music Poster Image
    Soundgarden meets Rage Against the Machine.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written byMr47 August 28, 2013

A Debut Album No One Should Miss

Pearl Jam are one of the great bands of all time and this album is one of the best of the 90's. Some themes might freak out your kid if they are intelligent enough to decipher that they are actually there due to the fact never really directly says stuff about the themes just implies it. Your children must hear this amazing debut if they are into rock music the slightest.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byriddick120 April 27, 2012


good music that may be inappropriate for young children
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old February 8, 2014

I love Pearl Jam!

They are awesome! One of my favorite bands.
What other families should know
Too much swearing