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Ruben Studdard

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 who had dominated the previous American Idol season in 2002, Studdard stood out with his massive frame, winning smile, mellow voice, and trademark jerseys bearing the number 205, the area code of his hometown.

That hometown looms large in Ruben's background. The son of two teachers, Studdard was born in Birmingham on July 14, 1978. He sang at his parents' Baptist church as a child, but it wasn't until college that he seriously pursued music. Abandoning a promising career in football that would lead to an athletic scholarship at Alabama A&M University, he decided to switch his major and study voice at the school, eventually graduating with a degree in 2000. He then launched his professional career as a singer for Just a Few Cats, a Birmingham-based jazz and soul band. During 2002, Ruben joined one of the group's backup singers at an audition for the second American Idol, making the first round of cuts at his local audition, then winning himself a slot on the national television program.

Studdard made a big impression from the start. Where most of his competitors were pop star wannabes hungry to win the competition, Ruben was quiet and exceedingly laid-back, impressing audiences and judges alike with his large voice and easy confidence. He soon climbed to the top of the pack and stayed there throughout the show, only once being voted into an elimination round. By that point, American Idol 2003 had turned into a horse race between Studdard and Clay Aiken, a skinny, geeky kid from the South whose appearance and taste were perhaps the polar opposite of Ruben's. Like many horse races, this one ended in a photo finish, with Ruben beating Clay by a few thousand votes in May 2003.

Within a month of the show's completion, Ruben's first single, "Flying Without Wings," was released concurrently with Clay's "This Is the Night," a clever release scheme designed to keep the competition alive. Aiken beat Studdard to the top of the charts, and shortly afterward, it was announced that the proposed joint release of their debut albums would be delayed, with each album released separately instead. As Aiken rode a wave of popularity that eclipsed Studdard's, Ruben worked frenetically -- recording his debut, touring with his American Idol cohorts, filming a cameo for Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and suing 205 Flava Inc., the company that made the jerseys he famously wore on American Idol, claiming that the clothes makers illegally profited from his image. 205 Flava Inc. countered that they paid the singer $1,000 to wear the jerseys on the show during the competition, and presented checks written to Ruben's brother and manager on MTV News to support their claim.

As Ruben worked, his album's release date kept getting pushed back; originally slated for an August release, the album was first rescheduled for October, and then postponed to November. Studdard's recording sessions boasted a variety of producers and collaborators, including Fat Joe, Missy Elliott, and R. Kelly, whose names were leaked to the press during the studio process in an effort to shore up Ruben's hip-hop and R&B credentials. When the finished product, Soulful, was finally released on December 9, 2003, it didn't boast either the highly touted Missy or Kelly tracks (though Fat Joe made the cut), but it did display a distinct hip-hop-flavored R&B bent, which stood in contrast to the pop-oriented efforts by such American Idol contestants as Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson, and Justin Guarini. Sporting two Top Ten hits, the album quickly went platinum.

The gospel album I Need an Angel followed one year later, featuring collaborations with contemporary gospel icons such as Bill Gaither and Walter Hawkins. Although the album sales failed to approach those of Studdard's debut, I Need an Angel did fare well on the gospel charts. Even so, Studdard returned to his urban roots in 2006 with an aptly named third album, The Return, which featured such contributors as Scott Storch and Ne-Yo. Leadoff single "Change Me" topped the urban contemporary charts that same year, but The Return proved to be the slowest-selling album of the singer's career, prompting J Records to cancel his contract in 2007.

In 2008, Studdard took a well-received foray into theater by portraying Fats Waller in a revival tour of Ain't Misbehavin'. Following the show's completion in May 2009, he returned to his studio career with another album, Love IS, whose subject matter honored the singer's then-recent marriage. The two divorced in late 2011. In 2012, Studdard released Letters from Birmingham, his first album for the Shanachie label. The following year, he competed on the reality TV show The Biggest Loser. His sixth album, Unconditional Love, was released on Verve in February 2014. A mix of originals and covers, it was highlighted by a duet with Lalah Hathaway on an update of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's 1967 Top 30 R&B single "If This World Were Mine." ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: June 28th (I'm Single) (Single)

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Track List: Meant To Be (Single)

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Track List: Medicine (For Someone Else) (Single)

Comments

Sang yall
Awesome. ....I was truly blessed as I listened to how well Ruben delivered this song..
sbsimon656
Jesus, you are the center of my life.
Ruben is awesome. He was great on the Soul Train Awards. I love the song choices he's made throughout his career. I am always looking forward to is music.
I barely hear Ruben, but every time I do I'm literally blown away, what a gracious man of God. Seeing him last night on the Wendy William's show and how I heard about him being on the show the Biggest Loser touched my heart, he's a man that actually wants to do something with his life and God has brought him SOOOO far, he can conquer whatever he sets his mind to do, amen.
Beautiful remake! MJ would be proud!
Loving it yes Jesus the center of mind joy beauitful
Love you Jesus Youre my joy!!! You make me strong lord. Lord help me I need you. I'm in a situation were I don't find a solution!
JESUS IS THE CENTER OF MY JOY!! Love All His Music.
True
My baby always sing this to me....I always feel beautiful when I hear this...makes me feel appreciated. Love when he says I wanna know you emotional and physical to, cause most guys my age just wanna know you physically smh.
FEEL BEAUTIFUL praise GOD, j listen to this song every morning first thing in the morning
AMEN!!!!!!
dandmwarrick
Hands down God is absolutely wonderful. Amen!!!!
I wish you were god already
I love this song! My man sings this to me cause I always say i'm avg, and he say Baby your so humble you know your f**king gorgeous, you bad girl. This song does make me feel very beautiful tho! Btw Ruben was on biggest loser.
Glory be to God!
mawaljamarcu s
Hallelujah
mawaljamarcu s
Amen....Yes Lord the center of my joy...
this song... ummmmmm
Feel me now....
I love this song. I try to get to this place.
Beautiful song ! Amen!
Tower of refuge and strength! Yes, JESUS!!
Its already done!!!!!THA N K U JESUS
I still belive that he can be waht ever he set him mine to be. His voice is still velvet and you can hear that he belives what he singing. God bless you
trinitytoya
canton jones is amazing
tanya.pruitt 5
all that's good and perfect comes from you......Jes u s you are the center of my joy
This is one of my favorite songs and Ruben did an awesome job singing it. God has given him a wonderful voice and i pray he goes far in life.
Amen allow God to be the center of ALL we do in this life on earth!
Memories.... Sorry 2004
Who cares if they laugh at you you should just praise and worship
Ruben your a soldier at march time. God is clearing a path for you before he gives the command forward march. Your time is coming
Ruben love this song come back
estherrogers
It is a shame that he didn't reach the popularity status his style and voice deserved...j u s t as well he didn't get caught up in all the pseudo fame in Hollowwood.. . G o d has bigger plans for him...God didn't gift him with a voice like his to not be used for His Glory...
His music, makes my heart happy !
All I need!!!
I need anger
I love Reuben. He is better than the business. He is real.
I love his voice in love songs . It's like smooth and whatnot lord bless you {velvet teddy bear} don't give up:)
Luv dem beats
jlousmith
He sings beautifully! God has given him a wonderful gift. More of his music please!!
laura_parfai t e
He Can Sing His Heart Out #Yes I Was In Middle School When I First Heard This && I Was Instantly A Fan
Love it
Sing it!
When Jesus is centered in our life all things are going to work out! Don't worry, Trust God! He loves when we believe Him. I tried Him and I believe Him! Glory to God!
yes lord you are the center of my joy...
wbranch36
I love this song !!!!i need this song this morning!!!! God is so good to my family. !!!!!!
I would like to hear more of Ruben songs. Please
The Canton Spirituals sang it better...but good job Ruben!!
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