May 15, 2009 / 11:56 PM / 8 years ago

"Goodbye" a strong beginning for Kristinia DeBarge

NEW YORK (Billboard) - One of the prominent R&B family acts of the '80s was Motown's DeBarge. Now Kristinia DeBarge, daughter of founding member/keyboardist James, is taking the group's musical legacy to new heights.

The 19-year-old recently entered the Billboard Hot 100 with her first single, "Goodbye." Sampling Steam's 1969 pop No. 1, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," the song is No. 30 on the tally and also appears in the latest Nivea ad campaign.

DeBarge is signed to Sodapop Music, a new label co-founded by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and industry veteran Jeff Burroughs. Her as-yet-untitled album is scheduled for a summer release through Island Def Jam.

DeBarge describes the album as "empowering and inspirational, aiming to give women strength and help young girls feel like they're not alone. It's the kind of album that will make you feel like everything is OK."

Tracks include "Cry Me a River," about a girl ready to move on from a painful breakup; "Sabotage," chronicling the struggles of peer pressure; and the ballad "It's Gotta Be Love."

DeBarge says she separates herself from other artists by embracing her vulnerability instead of looking on it as a bad thing. "It allows me to be who I am, to be compassionate and sing beautiful songs," she says.

She launched her career when she participated in "American Juniors," an "American Idol" spinoff, in 2003, and reached the top 20. Once filming ended, she joined her father on tour.

It was during one of those shows that the 14-year-old DeBarge met Edmonds. He took her under his wing and has been working with her for the past five years. Their efforts paid off on the eve of her 19th birthday in April, when DeBarge met with Island Def Jam chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid and signed her first label contract.

Now she's ready to further develop her birthright. "Being a DeBarge has done nothing but bring good things my way," she says. "I've worked hard for everything that's come my way. But I also know my last name has been in my corner."

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

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