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Ruben Studdard - 'Love Is'

Potential Realized?

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User Rating 5 Star Rating (2 Reviews)

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Ruben Studdard - 'Love Is'
Image © Hickory Records.
Of all the previous "American Idol" winners, Ruben Studdard is probably second lowest on the popularity scale, ahead of only Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks. Ruben, who won the second season of the show in 2003, is a quality vocalist but his career thus far has been hindered by a few factors, including poor song choices, occasionally bland singing and a perceived lack of personality and charisma. And on his fourth album, Love Is, released in the U.S. on May 19, 2009, isn't disappointing as his last album, 2007's The Return, but once again, Ruben fails to truly live up to his potential as a top-tier R&B-pop singer.

Past vs. Present

At the outset of his professional career, many R&B fans thought that Ruben might evolve into the next Luther Vandross or Teddy Pendergrass; on "Amrerican Idol," Ruben even earned the nickname "the Velvet Teddy Bear" after Pendergrass, whose nickname is Teddy Bear. But over the past six years, Ruben hasn't quite yet shown that he belongs in the same category as those legends. However, Love Is is a collection of love songs and ballads, is a small step in that direction.

Half the album's 12 songs are remakes, including the album's first single, "Together," produced by the Stargate duo. Unlike most of the remakes here, which are older songs, "Together" was previously recorded in just the past couple of years by two singers: Ne-Yo and Lee Carr. So to release it as a single instead of a new song seems odd. Especially since Ruben's version isn't any better than the other two. Other remakes include Ruben's versions of "The Long & Winding Road" (originally by the Beatles); Al Green's "For the Good Times;" and interestingly, a Country version of More Than Words," a song originally by rock band Extreme. To put it bluntly, all the remakes are unnecessary. But the original material is actually quite good. "A Song For Her," which Ruben co-wrote for his wife is a fairly tender, moving song, and "Footprints in the Sand," which was inspired by Barack Obama's presidential campaign, is spiritual and uplifting. The album's highlights are all within the album's six new songs: it's on these tracks that Ruben sounds most alive and energetic and like a true American Idol.

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