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Soulful

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Album Review

Ruben Studdard won the second American Idol competition in 2003, but by the time he released his debut album, Soulful, in December of that year, it seemed like he was the runner-up to Clay Aiken, the competition's second-place contestant. Clay captured the heart of the preteen girls at the core of AmIdol's audience, since he was the perfect make-believe boyfriend: kinda cute, skinny and nonthreatening, singing songs of puppy love. Ruben was kinda cute, gigantic and nonthreatening, singing songs styled after his idol Luther Vandross — soulful late-night grooves that didn't quite fit the old-fashioned pop sensibilities of American Idol. Studdard's consistently satisfying, easygoing performances and taste for material slightly older than the AmIdol demographic made him a favorite of the judges, and a favorite of an audience wanting to prove that the show wasn't just churning out prefabricated pop stars. Throughout the season, Ruben was favored to win — sometimes even singing as if the outcome was a foregone conclusion — but Clay had a serious surge of support that threatened to knock Studdard out of the catbird's seat. Aiken's popularity continued to grow even after he lost the competition, causing the label to scrap plans for the pair to release competing albums on the same day, since when the duo simultaneously released singles — both crawling, undistinguished adult contemporary ballads — Clay bested Ruben. Since it would be poor form for the winner to lose on a large scale, the dueling discs were pushed aside and Studdard was given extra time to work on his debut, making it less MOR, well, more Soulful. This was a smart move, since it drew a clear distinction between him and Aiken while appealing to the urban audience that always loved Ruben's Luther-isms. Also, by targeting the album at urban audiences, the producers gave Ruben a set of tracks heavy on slow grooves and sensual feel, not songs that would require him to stretch his vocal limits. In other words, most of Soulful consists of cuts that are about the feel of the production, from the shiny surfaces to the languid late-night beats, and not on songs that have strong, memorable verses and choruses. This works to the album's favor, at least as a piece of cohesive product, since it maintains a steady groove and feel from beginning to end. While Ruben won accolades for his voice, Soulful works best as a whole package, with the voice and production blending into one, providing appealing, professional, accomplished romantic mood music.

Customer Reviews

Good

The best is Sorry 2004

this track is a great one for a debut

yeah the title explains it all

Pretty Good

One thing I like about Ruben is that he can sing all kinds of genres of songs. He usually does really good with all of them. Hes got one amazing talent!

Biography

Born: July 14, 1978 in Birmingham, AL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Partway through the second American Idol competition in early 2003, guest judge Gladys Knight christened corpulent crooner Ruben Studdard a "velvet teddy bear," a nod to his smooth, Luther Vandross-styled voice and his Barry White-sized girth. The nickname stuck, since it captured the persona of the 25-year-old native of Birmingham, Alabama, who had unexpectedly become the front-runner in the televised talent show. Surrounded by skinny kids emulating Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, the two singers...
Full Bio