Skip to main content

17. Ruben Studdard - Soulful (2003)

Here's why I believe Ruben's American Idol win was justified, even though Clay Aiken has proved more popular since the show ended: From the first auditions to the final episode, Ruben was was consistently great, seemingly without effort. All of the other contestents had at least one (but usually several) cringe-inducing performances. But Ruben stayed true, and by the end seemed to be competing against nothing but the sense of inevitabilty surrounding him.

So, I hate to say that I'm quite disappointed with his debut album, Soulful. The voice that Ruben showcased on AI was a throwback to traditional soul men like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and Luther Vandross, and perhaps it was too much to expect a similarly old-school album. That sort of thing just doesn't exist in today's R & B; guys like R.Kelly, Musiq and D'Angelo are the closest we've got.

Soulful tries to please both sides, the old school and the new jack, and in the process loses any sense of, well, consistency. In the former style there are mostly covers, by the likes of The Bee Gees, Westlife, and The Carpenters (he covers Superstar, and just to add confusion names one of the originals on the album For All We Know, also the name of a Carpenters hit). These are just okay, but they're the best the album has to offer.

The more modern tracks are useless. Songs like Take The Shot, Play Our Song, and the embarassing What Is Sexy (featuring Fat Joe) are not only forgettable lyrically and musically, but they do nothing to showcase Ruben's voice. Only the opening track, Sorry 2004, demonstrates what might have been. It's got a nice melody and a funny concept (apologizing in advance for an entire year's worth of wrongdoings).

What this album makes me realize (much later than I should) is that American Idol is a flawed concept. Sure, the show is finding talented singers, but so far they've all lacked any sense of artistic vision. To this point, the best AI album is Kelly Clarkson's Thankful (does anyone else think that all of the winners should have to name their album with a -ful adjective?). It's short, catchy, sassy and listenable. Not to say that Kelly had artistic vision, but whoever put her album together did a good job. Whoever did Ruben's was asleep at the wheel, because there's no unified sound and (to quote one of the song titles) no Ruben, aka personality.

So, yes, Ruben's voice deserved to win the competition. There's no doubt about that. Unfortunately, he still needs to find an album full of deserving songs.

Rating: C
Fave Song: Sorry 2004

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

2022: The Album

Since 2003 I've made a mix of some of my favorite songs of the calendar year. Here's the cover art and track listing for the 2022 edition. 1. BODEGA - "Pillar on the Bridge of You" 2. Harry Styles - "Late Night Talking" 3. Vicious Vicious - "Evolution" 4. Hot Freaks - "Lovely" 5. Carly Rae Jepsen - "The Loneliest Time" 6. Tears for Fears - "End of Night" 7. Spoon - "Wild" 8. Death Cab for Cutie - "Here to Forever" 9. Citrine and GUKKO - "Feel Better" 10. Rhett Miller - "Fascination" 11. Broken Bells - "Fade Away" 12. Leah Marlene - "Flowers" 13. Robbie Williams - "The World and Her Mother" 14. Jimmy Eat World - "Something Loud" (acoustic version) 15. Sloan - "Dream It All Over Again" If you have Amazon Unlimited, you can listen at this link . 

12 by Matthew Sweet (2002 - 2021)

Sometimes a huge part of an artist's career has not been summarized. Case in point... Matthew Sweet has a couple of compliations out there, but neither of them cover the past couple of decades, a span that has seen him release 8 albums of original material and 3 albums of covers.  I followed Sweet's career religiously early on, with my ardor gradually diminishing after the magnificant one-two punch of In Reverse (1999) and The Thorns (2003) That's not to say he hasn't produced some great work since then, it's just that it requires bit of effort to pick out the gems. Here's my college try: (Two of these albums are not available on streaming servies, so here's a slightly modified version of the playlist on YouTube .) 1. "I Can't Remember" ( The Thorns , 2003) The Thorns was a rootsy, close-harmony early-aughts version of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, featuring Shawn Mullins (of "Lullaby" fame) and Pete Droge (of "If You Don't Lov