Ruben Studdard Decides Christmas Just Isn't Spiritual Enough

'Idol' winner scraps holiday LP in favor of 'inspirational' album.

HOLLYWOOD — Call it Even More Soulful.

Ruben Studdard has scrapped plans to follow up last year's Soulful with a Christmas collection and is instead recording what he's calling an inspirational album.

"I grew up in the church and there's a lot of musical influences and gospel music that I have always loved," Studdard explained. "So I'm doing an album of just tribute songs, like Commissioned and the Winans, [artists] that I have listened to all my life."

The still-untitled album, due in late fall, will be spiritual but still accessible to mainstream R&B fans, he said.

Along with working on his album, Studdard will spend the summer developing his new label, Real Music Records. So far, Studdard has signed a gospel singer named Kevin Bennett and a rapper named Gutter.

"I had to do a guest appearance at a seminar in Chicago, and my brother actually heard him and told me about him," Studdard said of the latter. "He's from Chicago and he's one of the hottest rappers around, so we're putting him out."

Studdard will not only oversee Bennett and Gutter's releases, he plans to produce tracks for them as well. "We're gonna work diligently to make both of them a success," he said.

As for Soulful, J Records is considering releasing the Fat Joe collaboration "What Is Sexy" as the album's final single. Ruben will release a more mainstream follow-up album in February.

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