First Listen: Ruben Studdard is finally "Meant to Be"

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    The last several years haven’t been kind to the 2004 Grammy-nominated Ruben Studdard. Launching with a near double-platinum R&B debut and a follow-up gold gospel album as one of the early American Idol winners, Studdard in more recent years has had what is easily one of his best albums in years, Letters from Birmingham (Shanachie Records) ignored by the press and radio, his young marriage come to an untimely end, and despite losing over 113 lbs. from his 6’3 frame, he still was kicked off of The Biggest Loser TV show not once, but twice last season.

    The last several years haven’t been kind to the 2004 Grammy-nominated Ruben Studdard. Launching with a near double-platinum R&B debut and a follow-up gold gospel album as one of the early American Idol winners, Studdard in more recent years has had what is easily one of his best albums in years, Letters from Birmingham (Shanachie Records) ignored by the press and radio, his young marriage come to an untimely end, and despite losing over 113 lbs. from his 6’3 frame, he still was kicked off of The Biggest Loser TV show not once, but twice last season. The Velvet Teddy Bear has had a few shining moments, including national tours in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Heaven I Need A Hug and winning two million dollars for personal losses and punitive damages in the lawsuit against his rogue former manager. Still, as a recording artist absent a hit in several years, Studdard needed a win badly. With a new record deal on Verve, a new album, Unconditional Love, dropping on February 4, 2014 (produced by the legendary David “Hit Man” Foster of Whitney, Toni, Chaka, Mariah and Céline fame), and a national tour with Lalah Hathaway, it looks like the angels are smiling on Studdard once more.

    The icing on Studdard’s comeback cake is his best single since 2006’s Top 40 R&B “Make Ya Feel Beautiful,” the Foster produced ballad, “Meant to Be.” Singing in his tenor instead of the baritone he’s privileged over the years, Studdard is a natural on this original, but classically appealing ‘70s soul ballad. With Eric Benet, Stevie Wonder, and Lalah Hathaway already slated to guest on what appears to be another Foster album winner, Studdard as a major league urban adult contemporary star may finally prove “Meant to Be” after all. 

    By L. Michael Gipson

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