CORPORATE LINE: Ruben Studdard would be the first to agree that the past three years have been amazing, rewarding and challenging. Think about it: Until the Spring of 2003, Studdard had been expressing his lifelong love for music by singing with local gospel groups and his R&B, jazz band in virtual obscurity in Birmingham, Alabama. Life changed forever when he became a household name, winning American Idol (the highest rated show on television) and captivating the country with his soulful, powerhouse vocal style.
In short order, Studdard recorded his first J Records album SOULFUL while watching his debut single, Flying Without Wings/Superstar achieve gold status within weeks of its release in late 2003; by the middle of 2004, SOULFUL which sold over 400,000 copies during its first week on sale – was certified platinum. He was the recipient of a coveted NAACP 2004 Image Award and earned his first Grammy nomination in 2004 (for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male) for his emotive reading of Superstar (one of the most played cuts on urban radio during the last six months of 2003); as 2004 came to a close, J Records released Rubens gospel album, I NEED AN ANGEL, achieving gold status within weeks and garnering him a BET 2005 nomination for Best Gospel Album.
Ruben devoted much of 2005 to working on his own foundation, the Ruben Studdard Foundation for the Advancement of Children in Music Arts (which gives grants and scholarships to music students, summer camps and after school programs) and being at home with his family in Birmingham while preparing for his new record, THE RETURN. While his first two albums were recorded while he was on the road touring, this time around Ruben took time off to record, working with hit-making producers The Underdogs, Scott Storch, Ne-Yo, Harold Lilly, Bryan-Michael Cox, Dre & Vidal and others.
“Change Me” – A sexy, sweet ballad that allows Studdard room to improvise which is undoubtedly his strong suit.
“Make Ya Feel Beautiful” – This tender soul song is smooth and soulful and allows Ruben to showcase his softer side.
“Ain’t No Party” – Finally Studdard hits something other than a ballad. “Ain’t No Party” allows Studdard’s to fully display silky voice at a higher octane.
“The Return (Of The Velvet Teddy Bear)” – There is something missing here. Studdard isn’t given a lot to work with and that makes him sound timid.
“Get U Loose” – This is a song better suited for Nelly.
“Rather Just Not Know” – A song about not knowing about your woman cheating and not wanting to know is unique—too bad the song isn’t.
FRANKLY: The Return isn’t a return with vengeance—its sort of a subtle “hello, I’m here again,” The Return is mostly ballads which means the listener never gets fully engaged. Ruben Studdard is a huge fan of Luther Vandross but that doesn’t mean every track has to play like a Luther ballad and ultimately that holds Studdard and his big return back.
+ Cc Morris