RUBEN STUDDARD Soulful (J Records) Rating: NN
The American Idol idea sounds good: singing talent seems to influence the voting more than appearance, and why not have the public choose their pop stars rather than some record exec? I was rooting for Ruben, especially after Clay dropped the country thing he did so well for tacky Vegas smarminess. Unfortunately, the mainstream record industry doesn't know what to do with a voice like Ruben's any more. The biggest problem is the lack of decent songs and arrangements, but the inconsistent and uninspiring production style doesn't help either. The upbeat numbers sound like R&B for middle-aged white people, and the ballads all have that god-awful mid-90s digital studio sheen and no hooks, just wailing. We can only hope that these guys drop Studdard and someone who understands the neo-soul adult R&B market and sound picks him up.