It's been a little while since "American Idol" fans have seen season-two winner [artist id="1236903"]Ruben Studdard[/artist]. But the Velvet Teddy Bear will change all that Thursday night (March 26) when he steps on the "Idol" stage again, capping a three-week blitz of returning former "Idol" stars visiting the show that has also included performances from Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
"It's like I never left," Studdard said Wednesday evening after a day of "Idol" rehearsals. The singer flew into Los Angeles early Wednesday morning following a performance the night before in a touring production of the musical "Ain't Misbehavin'."
The singer compared returning to "Idol" to going back to your old high school. "You see all your old teachers and you get a chance to see the people who really had a part in helping you get to where you are," he said. But, unlike when you peek into your lunchroom and it suddenly seems so small, Studdard said the glitzy new stage is way "bigger and flashier" than the one he remembers standing on when he won his crown.
Studdard, 30, joked that while he and his fellow contestants had some help from stylists, "These kids now get to wear designer clothes every week! We didn't get to wear Dolce & Gabbana, that's for sure."
Studdard is returning just in time to celebrate "50 Years of Motown" on a show that will also feature a performance from Smokey Robinson. Studdard will perform his buttery-smooth Stargate-produced ballad "Together" on TV for the first time. The song is the first single from Studdard's upcoming fourth album, Love Is, his first effort since parting ways with longtime label J Records in 2007. The album, due May 19, mostly features production by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with the Grammy-nominated Studdard stepping up to co-write four of the songs himself.
"I miss the people [from the show]," he said. "But I don't think I'd want to do the 16-hour days again, though. And to come back on Motown night ... I grew up listening to Motown music, so this will be a fun show for me to do."
Though he's been busy recording and touring with "Misbehavin'," Studdard has stayed close to his "Idol" roots, returning several times to perform. He also provided the farewell song for season seven with his cover of Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home," which he performed last May on the first night of the finale.
Though he hadn't yet seen the judges when MTV News spoke to him, Studdard said he was looking forward to seeing Randy, Paula and Simon and meeting new judge Kara DioGuardi.
Busy on the road with the musical, Studdard said he's only seen one episode of "Idol" so far this season and was reluctant to say who he favors in the competition. "It's so early on now, and everyone is trying to work out their nerves and get accustomed to being away from home," he said. "I haven't talked to them yet, but the only thing I can say to them is to stay focused. There's a lot going on. Your home life doesn't stop because you're on the show, but you have to focus on the goal at hand because the most important thing while you're there is performing well."
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