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Letters from Birmingham

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Album Review

Letters from Birmingham, Ruben Studdard's fifth album — and first for Shanachie, refuge of the veteran, major-label cast-off R&B artist — isn't nearly as heavy as the historical Martin Luther King, Jr. missive its title references. The album traces the arc of a relationship, from love at first sight to "June 28th (I'm Single)," a throwback-contemporary hybrid where Studdard addresses his ex-wife and potential mates. Four brief "letter" interludes help guide the listener through the stages in the singer's relationship; without them, the album would still have a discernible linear flow. The stylistic transitions, however, are not as smooth. There's some Southern-friend funk, neo-Philly soul, alternately silky and churning adult contemporary R&B, a very slow cover of Bobby Brown's Babyface/L.A. Reid-penned "Rock Wit'cha" (featuring K. Michelle), and even a twinkling version of "Pure Imagination" (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory). There is almost enough shifting to fill a season's worth of American Idol performances, and it detracts from the fact that this clearly is Studdard's most personal set of songs to date. With the right push and some open-minded radio programming, two of these songs — the Ne-Yo-worthy "Wear Me" and the Chrisette Michele-assisted "Do It Right" — could be significant hits and debunk the notion that Studdard excels only with ballads.

Customer Reviews

Work of art!

I have always been a Ruben S. fan every since he blessed the world with his version of Luther V "Superstar" on American Idol. Over the years he has challenged himself to place himself in both realms R&B and Gospel proving the world that he can do both whenever he chooses to. This album has only been out for an hour and I can honestly say this is one of his strongest projects even surpassing the classic "Soulful" album! Turn U Out, Love Skies, Do it Right, Today, Twisted love, Rock Wit'cha, ALL of the "Letter skits" and of Cours "Pure Imagination" displays the true essence of the album. Pure Imagination which is a classic coming from the movie "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory movie" is his strongest song on the album. He took such a innocent song, and turn it into an enchanted melody anyone can sit back and think about the one they love! I am super excited to see what everyone else thinks of this album! Great hands down Ruben S!!!!!! God Bless.

Ruben fan

I'm a huge Ruben fan. This is classic Ruben, he didn't disappoint.

Rubin certainly did "Do It Right

The title of the seventh song says it all...excellent sound, great songs.


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...
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