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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Ruben Studdard

MUSIC REVIEWS

Ruben Studdard-The Return  (J Records)

Ruben Studdard, the talented singer and winner of the 2003 American Idol crown, returns with the follow up to the multi-platinum debut, Soulful.  The Return bolsters a more raw and adult Studdard.  While most artists’ attempts’ seem slightly contrived, Studdard seems to pull it off without a hitch.  While Soulful was packed with safe, borderline R&B, The Return pulls no punches and gets right down to the business of being REAL. 

The lead single, “Change Me,” produced by the Underdogs (Tyrese, Omarion) finds Studdard confident with himself.  It makes one wonder who he’s really speaking to, either a girlfriend or a record executive? “Why you wanna Change me/flip all the things that really made me/the way that I am used to make you happy,” sings Studdard.  His powerful, yet non-threatening voice makes the song sound even more convincing. 

Not hidden in the 14-song play list are two gems, written by fellow R&B crooner, Neyo.  In “Rather Just Not Know,” Studdard explains that sometimes its better to turn a blind eye than know of a lover’s true infidelity.  “Make Ya Feel Beautiful,” also penned by Neyo, is a definite hit.  Not to be outdone is Studdard’s flattering take on Luther Vandross’ “If Only For One Night.”  Obviously Studdard is attempting to shake the rust off after a little break from the American Idol hoopla, but The Return is Studdard’s squeaky new vehicle that will surely turn some heads.  (12/06)

Abraham Kuranga

Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 29, 2006.

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Copyright ©2003-2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 30, 2003 and December 29, 2006.

Ruben Studdard-Soulful  (J Records)

The one thing every new artist struggles with is self-identity.  They all go  through a period in which they search for their sound, look, and core audience.  In the case of Ruben Studdard, the “velvet teddy bear,” he found his core audience sitting by the telephone on that fateful night he was crowned American Idol II champion.  With his debut set, Soulful, Studdard has yet to find his sound. 

Perhaps this is because there is a who’s-who of today’s hip-hop/R&B producers. With all these diverse collaborators, Studdard’s sound is completely undefined.  Checking in on this album are The Underdogs (Tyrese, B2K), Irv Gotti (Ja Rule, Ashanti), Jazze Pha (Bow Wow, Cash Money), Swizz Beatz (DMX, Eve) and the ubiquitous singer/songwriter/producer R. Kelly.  Blend all these respective mentors and the resulting product isn’t always easy to swallow.  With the pressure rested squarely on his shoulders, Studdard refuses to say no to anyone releases a rather calculated debut.  Unlike his size, he doesn’t carry it very well.

Serving as the lead single, “Sorry 2004” is arguably the best track on the album.  That in itself is a problem.  With the first single being the greatest tune, there is little potential for this set to have a long, enjoyable life. The set, in its entirety, is also marred with street talk of “cribs”, “rides,” and “ghetto love.”  Luther Vandross, to which Studdard is often compared, would not dare tread this territory.

There are a few diamonds in the ruff that showcase Studdard’s talent appropriately.  He possesses a sweet, muscular, but not overpowering voice.  Tracks like “What If”, which questions a lover’s motive, exemplify the route in which Studdard should have traveled.  The piano-driven “For All We Know” is a soft, stirring ballad that demonstrates Studdard’s romantic side.  “No Ruben” is an up-tempo ditty directed towards those who helped Studdard gain the American Idol crown, which would be a good concept if it were not so predictable.  Nevertheless, it’s a solid track.

Part of the American Idol phenomenon is the performers redoing beloved tunes, so this album would not be complete without a few covers.  Studdard is able to do them justice, though.  The songs sound as if he were the first to record them.  “Superstar” was originally written and performed by Leon Russell and then covered by everyone from Rita Coolidge to Bette Midler to The Carpenters to Luther Vandross to Chrissy Hynde to Sonic Youth.   Studdard’s take on the tune, backed by a full string orchestra, shows off his impressive range.  The Bee Gees classic “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” and Westlife’s “Flying Without Wings” take Studdard in the perfect direction, both being strong ballads that showcase his voice to terrific effect

If not for the smorgasbord of producers, listeners might be able to detect Studdard’s signature sound.  But as it is, with his debut album, that has yet to be defined.  Hopefully, the second time around, we’ll see the true, soulful Ruben Studdard.  (12/03)

Abraham Kuranga

Copyright ©2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 30, 2003.