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by Ruben Studdard

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Although he took the 2003 American Idol crown, Ruben Studdard is often overshadowed by his baby-faced runner-up, Clay Aiken, who went on to release a platinum debut. With the release of his own hotly anticipated debut, however, the Velvet Teddy Bear is poised to reclaim his thunder. A soulful crooner in the


Although he took the 2003 American Idol crown, Ruben Studdard is often overshadowed by his baby-faced runner-up, Clay Aiken, who went on to release a platinum debut. With the release of his own hotly anticipated debut, however, the Velvet Teddy Bear is poised to reclaim his thunder. A soulful crooner in the Luther Vandross mold, the gregarious loverman is the polar opposite to Aiken, a lanky, wholesome throwback to pop idols like Pat Boone. But it's Studdard's charm and husky, church-inspired vocals -- paired with smooth R&B and hip-hop-lite tracks -- that make Soulful the best record by an American Idol alum thus far. Studdard plays up his large-and-in-charge sex appeal on "What Is Sexy?," which borrows its thumping bass beat from Mary J's "Real Love" and finds the Alabama native proclaiming, "This is for the big boys, we're in style again." The charismatic Studdard pays homage to his humble beginnings on the nostalgic "No Ruben," on which he boasts, "If you didn't know, I was a star before the show." But as he did on the show, Studdard really shines on his renditions of the classic cover tunes, such as the Al Green–popularized "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," the Donny Hathaway favorite "For All We Know," and the Vandross-by-way-of-the Carpenters winner "Superstar." Studdard proves himself to be a musical heavyweight with a broad range on the uplifting Fred Hammond collaboration "We Have Not Forgotten," which suggests he could have a promising career singing non-secular music. But that's unlikely to happen anytime soon, because Soulful successfully launches the career of a bona fide R&B superstar.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ruben Studdard   Primary Artist,Vocals,Background Vocals
Rob Mounsey   Piano,Conductor,Keyboards
Michael Thompson   Guitar
Sid Page   Violin
Maxi Anderson   Background Vocals
Elena Barere   Violin,Concert Master
Davis A. Barnett   Viola
Eric Bell   Background Vocals
Charlie Bisharat   Violin
Larry Corbett   Cello
Joel Derouin   Concert Master
Nathan East   Bass
Lawrence Feldman   Flute
Steve Ferrera   Drums
Barry Finclair   Violin
Armen Garabedian   Violin
Berj Garabedian   Violin
Larry Gold   Conductor
Fred Hammond   Vocals,Background Vocals,Guest Appearance
Ricky Lawson   Drums
Richard Locker   Cello
Cindy Mizelle   Background Vocals
Peter Nocella   Viola
Greg Phillinganes   Keyboards
James Poyser   Piano
Karie Prescott   Viola
Mark Robertson   Violin
Richard Sortomme   Violin
Carl Sturken   Guitar,Keyboards
Josefina Vergara   Violin
Anthony Wilkins   Background Vocals
Evan Wilson   Viola
John Wittenberg   Violin
Cenovia Cummins   Violin
Jamie Brown   Choir, Chorus,Group Member
Damon Thomas   Group Member
Fat Joe   Guest Appearance
Suzie Katayama   Cello
Eric Dawkins   Background Vocals,Vocal Director
Bob Peterson   Violin
Pretty Tony   Guest Appearance
Joey Woolfalk   Guitar
A.J. Wright   Choir, Chorus
Noel Hall   Keyboards
Olga Konopelsky   Violin
Emma Kummrow   Violin
Charlene Kwas   Violin
Igor Szwec   Violin
Peter Gordon   French Horn
Harvey Mason   Group Member
Kevin Hanson   Guitar
Angela Fisher   Background Vocals
Ashley Davis   Background Vocals
Mark Jaimes   Guitar
David Earl Miller   Choir, Chorus,Group Member
Eric King   Background Vocals
Vince Lionti   Viola
Bob Becker   Viola
Peter Murray   Piano,Keyboards
Harold Lilly   Background Vocals
Jonathan Dinklage   Violin
Kevin Milburn   Background Vocals
Cecilia Bereal Powell   Background Vocals
Joseph Jr. Bereal   Background Vocals
Latanya Bereal   Background Vocals
Melissa Bereal   Background Vocals
Crystal Drummer   Background Vocals
Dan Smith   Cello
Joel Bowers   Background Vocals
Jennie Lorenzo   Cello
Alyssa Park   Violin
Helen Zeigler   Choir, Chorus,Group Member
Felecia Bowles   Choir, Chorus,Group Member
Jacqueline Bridges   Choir, Chorus,Group Member
Tribe Called Judah   Choir, Chorus,Group
Tanisha J. Cidel   Choir, Chorus,Group Member
Ghislaine Fleischmann   Violin
Michele Richards   Violin
Edward Lawson   Background Vocals
Andrew Kennedy   Background Vocals
Underdogs   Group

Technical Credits

Leon Russell   Composer
Rob Mounsey   String Arrangements
Joe Sample   Composer
Bonnie Bramlett   Composer
Robin Gibb   Composer
Evan Rogers   Producer
Barry Gibb   Composer
David Campbell   Arranger,String Arrangements
Steve Churchyard   Engineer
Melvin Coleman   Composer,Producer
J. Fred Coots   Composer
Clive Davis   Producer
Maurice Gibb   Composer
Larry Gold   String Arrangements
Fred Hammond   Composer,drum programming
Will Jennings   Composer
Mark Morales   Composer
Malcolm Pollack   Engineer
Mark Rooney   Composer
Jonn Savannah   Pro-Tools
Carl Sturken   Producer
Ryan Toby   Composer
Mike "Hitman" Wilson   Engineer
Gavyn Wright   Orchestra Leader
Damon Thomas   Composer,Producer
Eric Dawkins   Composer
Tony Dixon   Composer
Jazze Pha   Producer
Noel Hall   Composer
Paul Boutin   Engineer
Brian Springer   Engineer
Tommie Walker   drum programming
Irv Gotti   Producer
Dino Hermann   Pro-Tools
Steve Mac   Composer
Andre Harris   Composer,Producer,Instrumentation
Irving Lorenzo   Composer
Harvey Mason   Composer,Producer
Jeffrey Atkins   Composer
Hemberger   Engineer
Doc Wiley   Engineer
Kevin Wilson   Engineer
Swizz Beatz   Producer
Kevin Hicks   Composer,Producer
Johnta Austin   Composer
Gerard Thomas   Composer,Producer
Jim Bottari   Engineer
Alexis Yraola   Art Direction
Jason Edmonds   Composer
David Ashton   Vocal Engineer,Pro-Tools
Vidal Davis   Composer,Producer,Instrumentation
Kamel Abdo   Engineer
Alex Reverberi   Engineer
Wayne Hector   Composer
Steve Conover   Engineer
Jason Boyd   Composer
Harold Lilly   Composer,Producer,Vocal Producer
Kasseem Dean   Composer
Dabling Harward   Engineer
Chandler Bridges   Pro-Tools
Postmaster   Programming
Vincent Dilorenzo   Engineer
Ronnie Jackson   Composer
Chris LeBeau   Artwork
Lil Ronnie   Producer,Instrumentation
Keri Hilson   Composer
Bruce Fraser   Engineer
Simon Fuller   Management
Kirk Robinson   Composer
James McMillan   Arranger,Producer
Underdogs   Producer,Instrumentation

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