It's been almost three years since former "American Idol" winner [artist id="1236903"]Ruben Studdard[/artist] has released an album. But the man they call the Velvet Teddy Bear has spent that time cooking up some new tunes and unique covers for his upcoming album, Love Is, which he thinks will lure back his longtime admirers.
"A lot of people will be pleasantly surprised. ... The music is really good," said the laid-back singer, who performed the silky first single "Together" on "Idol" Thursday night. After parting ways with his longtime label following the disappointing sales of 2006's The Return, Studdard, 30, regrouped and hooked up with two of the most accomplished R&B producers in the business, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis ([artist id="1090"]Janet Jackson[/artist], [artist id="1270"]Usher[/artist], [artist id="976"]Mariah Carey[/artist]), who produced the majority of the new album.
"I co-wrote four to five of the songs," said Studdard, who is releasing the album of love songs through Hickory Records/ 19 Recordings on May 19. "This time, the record company was willing to let me be more involved in the process. Not to say that J Records wasn't, but the proof is in the pudding!" Studdard said Jam and Lewis have the unique ability to bring the best out of the artists they work with, and the duo pushed him to go beyond his comfort zone.
That might explain how he came to cover such nontraditional tunes as hair-metal act Extreme's smash "More Than Words" and Canadian rocker [artist id="844"]Bryan Adams'[/artist] "Heaven," with an assist on the latter from [artist id="3426"]Boyz II Men[/artist].
He also tackles [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson's[/artist] "I Can't Help It" on the album, which includes an original tune Studdard co-wrote for his wife called "A Song for Her." Along with Jam and Lewis, the album features co-production from New Jack Swing legend Teddy Riley and Big & Rich's John Rich.
While he's been busy touring in a revival of the Fats Waller Broadway musical "Ain't Misbehavin'," in which he stars alongside fellow "Idol" alums Frenchie Davis and Trenyce, Studdard is looking forward to getting back to being an R&B singer after a rough few years in which he's endured some financial stress due to tax issues, successfully sued a former manager, gotten married and lost more than 100 pounds after once tipping the scales at 450 pounds.
"It's a lot of work. We dance from top to bottom," Studdard said of his eight-show-a-week schedule on "Misbehavin'," which he'll be on the road with until May. "But I'm excited to get back out there and do a promotional tour and do some radio stuff and hopefully after that get some tour dates together."
Studdard has also teamed up with the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America to spearhead the health campaign "Be Sickle Smart," encouraging sufferers of the blood disease — which primarily affects African-Americans — to learn more about iron overload.
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