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.
todays hip-hop/R&B producers Perhaps this is because there is a.
With all these diverse collaborators, Studdards 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 isnt 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 doesnt
carry it very well.
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
a few diamonds in the ruff that showcase Studdards talent appropriately. He
possesses a sweet, muscular, but not overpowering voice. Tracks like What If,
which questions a lovers motive, exemplify the route in which Studdard should
have traveled. The piano-driven For All We Know is a soft, stirring ballad
that demonstrates Studdards 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,
its 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. Studdards 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 Westlifes 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 Studdards signature
sound. But as it is, with his debut album, that has yet to be defined.
second time around, well see the true, soulful Ruben Studdard.