Christopher Ruben Studdard (born September 12, 1978), is an American R&B, pop and gospel singer. He rose to fame as winner of the second season of American Idol and received a Grammy Award nomination in December 2003 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Superstar". In the years following Idol, Studdard has released six studio albums, including his platinum-selling debut, Soulful, and the top-selling gospel follow-up, I Need an Angel. He is most well known for his recording career, which has produced hits including "Flying Without Wings", "Sorry 2004", and "Change Me", but he has also segued into television and stage work. Most notably, he toured with Robin Givens in the comedy-drama I Need a Hug and in 2008 starred as Fats Waller in a national tour revival of Ain't Misbehavin', which spawned a Grammy-nominated soundtrack.
Studdard was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to American parents, while his father was stationed there with the U.S. Army, and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. The youngest son of two teachers, at the age of three, he sang for the first time at the Rising Star Baptist Church in his hometown of Birmingham. He continued singing gospel in church, performing solos as a child while his mother sang in the local choir. While at Huffman High School, he played football for which he received a scholarship to Alabama A&M University. While at Alabama A&M he joined the Omicron Delta chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the men's music fraternity of America.
After growing up listening to his mother's Donny Hathaway albums, Fred Hammond, and gospel music, Studdard began to pursue a career in the music industry, majoring in voice studies at Alabama A&M. He sang with Just a Few Cats, a popular local Birmingham jazz and R&B band founded by members of Ray Reach's UAB Jazz Ensemble, along with other local musicians. Years later, Studdard stated: "A lot of people don't realize how hard I was trying to get into the business before American Idol. I was making demos and just working so hard." A back-up singer from Just a Few Cats asked him to accompany her to Nashville, Tennessee for an audition on the 2003 second season of American Idol.
When auditioning, Studdard sang Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky". This guided him to being one of the local finalists. On American Idol, he impressed viewers with his performances of the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett song "Superstar" (best known as a hit for The Carpenters) and the Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle duet "A Whole New World"; during his time on the show, Studdard received praise from music legends such as Lionel Richie, Neil Sedaka, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, Luther Vandross, and Gladys Knight.
During the televised competition, Studdard gained the nickname "Velvet Teddy Bear" and was noted for his shirts printed with "205", the telephone area code of his hometown of Birmingham. Studdard also did a cover version of "For All We Know", originally recorded by Donny Hathaway, whose music he grew up with.
He won the contest over runner-up Clay Aiken by only 134,000 votes out of 24,000,000 cast in the May 2003 finale, becoming the second American Idol winner. Alabama Governor, Bob Riley declared March 11, 2003 as "Ruben Studdard Day".
|Top 32||Contestant's choice||"Superstar"||Delaney & Bonnie||Advanced|
|Top 12||Motown||"Baby I Need Your Loving"||Four Tops||Safe|
|Top 11||Movie Soundtracks||"A Whole New World" - Aladdin||Brad Kane & Lea Salonga||Safe|
|Top 10||Country rock||"Sweet Home Alabama"||Lynyrd Skynyrd||Safe|
|Top 81||Disco||"Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe"||Barry White||Safe|
|Top 8||Billboard Number Ones||"Kiss and Say Goodbye"||The Manhattans||Safe|
|Top 7||Billy Joel||"Just the Way You Are"||Billy Joel||Safe|
|Top 6||Diane Warren||"Music of My Heart"||'N Sync and Gloria Estefan||Safe|
|Top 5||1960s||"Ain't Too Proud to Beg"||The Temptations||Bottom 22|
|Neil Sedaka||"Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"||Neil Sedaka|
|Top 4||Bee Gees||"Nights on Broadway"||Bee Gees||Safe|
|"How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"||Bee Gees|
|Top 3||Random||"Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours"||Stevie Wonder||Safe|
|Judges' Choice||"Smile" - Simon Cowell||Charlie Chaplin|
|Idol's Choice||"If Ever You're in My Arms Again"||Peabo Bryson|
|Top 2||Finale||"A House Is Not a Home"||Dionne Warwick||Winner|
|"Flying Without Wings"||Westlife|
Studdard released his first single, a cover of Westlife's "Flying Without Wings" (which he had sung on the show's finale), produced by The Underdogs and Babyface, a month later in June 2003. Fueled largely by sales, it debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. In December 2003, advance orders for his album Soulful topped the one million mark before it was released into stores. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart that month, selling over 400,000 copies in its first week and attaining the second highest first-week sales of any American Idol winner. The single "Sorry 2004" from this album found substantial airplay, reaching number nine in the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Billboard R&B singles chart. Studdard received a Grammy Award nomination in December 2003 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Superstar", nominated with his idol Luther Vandross (Vandross won that category). In March 2004, Ruben won the NAACP Outstanding New Artist award.
Studdard released the gospel album I Need an Angel on November 23, 2004. The title track and first single "I Need an Angel" was a cover of a 2002 single performed by R&B singer Daniel DeBourg and written by R. Kelly. The album sold over 96,000 copies in its first week, it also entered the Gospel charts at number one, opened at number twenty on the Billboard 200 chart, it since has sold over 500,000 copies. It was also number one on the 2005 Billboard Year-End Gospel Albums Chart. As of June 2007, Studdard is the fifth-best selling American Idol performer with more than 2.4 million albums sold in the U.S.
In March 2005, Studdard filed a lawsuit against his godfather and business advisor Ronald Edwards. The suit alleges that Edwards ran up $156,000 on Studdard's credit cards and stole $90,000 from his checking account. Edwards filed a countersuit. On June 15, 2006, Studdard was awarded $500,000 for personal losses and another $1.5 million in punitive damages.
Between his second and third albums, Studdard began a diet and fitness program to deal with his weight, out of concern for a family history of diabetes and hypertension resulting in his losing over 70 pounds on a vegetarian diet.
Studdard's third album, The Return was released in October 2006; it goes back to his R&B roots, but is different from his previous efforts. Studdard collaborated with the artist Ne-Yo on this album, along with a variety of producers. The single "Change Me" was released ahead of the album. The Return sold 71,000 copies in its first week to open at number eight on the Billboard 200 album chart, but sales declined rapidly after that, not approaching those of his earlier albums. However, Studdard did have good success on the Urban Contemporary chart with "Change Me" (which reached number one) and its successor "Make Ya Feel Beautiful". Studdard continued to tour, saying he would play a variety of music: "Coming out to my show is like coming to my house. I'll play the songs I love. It's like a party. For me, a party has all different types of music happening."
Studdard appeared on the finale of American Idol season 6 in May 2007. He spent a few weeks touring with Robin Givens in the comedy-drama Heaven I Need a Hug and prepared to take on the role of Fats Waller in a national tour of Ain't Misbehavin' in 2008. The tour is scheduled to begin November 17, 2008 in Atlanta, GA and end May 14, 2009 in Syracuse, NY.
In December 2007, Studdard had been dropped from his record company, J Records, due to poor sales of The Return and "[falling] short of expectations". He remained under contract with 19 Recordings, however. As such he was assigned the high-profile position of performing the American Idol season 7 farewell song, a recording of Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home", in a new version produced by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam.
Studdard performed "Celebrate Me Home" live on May 20, 2008, at the Nokia Theatre for the first night of the two-night Grand Finale of American Idol's seventh season.
Studdard announced that his next album, to be released May 19, 2009, would be released on Sony Music offshoot Hickory Records. The new album, entitled Love Is, was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The first single off Love Is is the ballad "Together", which was written by Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Phillip Taj Jackson and Martin Kleveland, produced by StarGate & Martin K. For the album, he was inspired by 2008 marriage Surata Zuri McCants.
He performed his new single "Together" on American Idol season 8 on March 26, 2009.
Love Is was released on May 19, 2009 to mostly positive reviews. The album, which features a mix of covers and original songs, sold 15,200 units in its first week to debut at number 36 on the Billboard 200, number five on Independent Albums and number eight on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
Studdard returned to the American Idol stage on March 31, 2010 to perform his latest single "Don't Make 'Em Like U No More". In his on camera interview with Ryan Seacrest after his performance, he said that he would be touring with Clay Aiken in the summer.
Studdard and Aiken brought their Timeless tour to cities in the US and Canada beginning in Asheville, North Carolina on July 23, 2010 and ending in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 14. Instead of a concert focusing on each singers recordings, Studdard and Aiken opted for a variety show format covering medleys of songs from the 1960s to the 1990s with a few solos and interspersed with comedy bits.
A concept album that traces a relationship through a series of romantic letters, Letters from Birmingham received mostly positive reviews, especially for his duet with Chrisette Michele, "Do It Right", which was praised as "sublime" and "tantalizing". The album also included covers of Bobby Brown's "Rock Wit'cha" and "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, recast as a love song. Since its release, "Letters from Birmingham" has sold 22,000 copies, and the lead single, "June 28 (I'm Single)", which referenced his marriage and subsequent divorce, reached the top 20 of Billboard's urban charts.
Studdard joined the cast of fifteenth season of the NBC weight loss competition show The Biggest Loser, and was credited as its first ever celebrity contestant. At 6'3 and 462 pounds, Studdard had the highest starting weight and BMI of the entire cast. A member of the show's Red Team, Studdard was first eliminated in the fourth week after he failed to make his weight loss goal. However, because opposing coach Jillian Michaels had given her team caffeine pills in violation of the rules, Studdard's elimination was voided and he returned before once again being eliminated during the competition's eighth week.
At the show's finale on February 4, 2014 (which coincided with the release of Studdard's newest album, Unconditional Love), it was revealed that he had lost a total of 119 pounds for an ending weight of 343 pounds. Studdard credited the weight loss for improving his ability to perform onstage. During the finale, Studdard also performed his new album's lead single, "Meant to Be", accompanied by the song's cowriter and producer, David Foster, on piano.
Unconditional Love is Studdard's sixth studio album and first with his new label, Verve Records. Foster, who has won 16 Grammy Awards, was the executive producer of the disc, which primarily consists of covers of love songs along with two originals, including "Meant to Be". Studdard has called it "the album that everybody expected from me when I won American Idol." The album features collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Lalah Hathaway, and Eric Benet, and includes covers of songs originally performed by artists such as Paul McCartney, Donny Hathaway, Bonnie Raitt, Marvin Gaye, and Peabo Bryson. Since its release, the album has received some of Studdard's best reviews of his career. According to critics, the album "finds Studdard at the top of his game vocally" and he hits his stride, "exuding grace, confidence and class" as he successfully positions himself as a "stylish crooner." Unconditional Love debuted at #46 on the Billboard 200 and #7 on Billboard's R&B Albums chart.
Studdard has worked as an actor in several roles, including single-episode appearances on the television series 8 Simple Rules, Life on a Stick, All of Us, and Eve, as well as a cameo appearance in the film Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. He has also appeared on a television commercial for a Birmingham-area Kia dealer.
He appeared in an episode of One on One as himself & in an episode of All of Us as an older Bobby. He also appeared in the 8 Simple Rules episode where CJ's dad comes; he played a delivery boy whom CJ mistakes for his father. He greets him by hugging him and saying "You have always been my idol", referring to his win on Idol. Studdard also appeared on an episode of Eve as Paul, Janie's younger brother who has a huge crush on Shelly.
Studdard headlined the revival tour of Ain't Misbehavin', starring alongside fellow American Idol season 2 alumni Trenyce and Frenchie Davis. Starring as Fats Waller, Studdard received positive reviews and was part of the cast recording album released by Rhino Records on January 13, 2009.
Studdard's love of music led him to create The Ruben Studdard Foundation for the Advancement of Children in the Music Arts. The foundation's mission statement says their aim is "to promote the essential role of the arts in education through learning initiatives for the development of students in the Greater Birmingham Area."
Studdard has signed on as an official spokesperson for "Be Sickle Smart", a nationwide grassroots health-education program aimed at increasing awareness of iron overload among people living with sickle-cell disease.
Studdard met Surata Zuri McCants in October 2006, when he was signing CDs at a Wal-Mart in Atlanta. On June 28, 2008, Studdard married McCants in a short, private ceremony in Mountain Brook, Alabama.
On November 16, 2011, Studdard's attorney announced that Studdard was in the process of a divorce. "Ruben Studdard and Zuri McCants Studdard have separated, and they are in the process of seeking a dissolution of their marriage", said Byron Perkins. Studdard's divorce was finalized in April 2012.
Studdard received an honorary Master of Arts degree from his Alma Mater (where he received a Bachelors in Vocal Studies), Alabama A&M, at their December 2015 commencement ceremony.
|2004||I Need an Angel
|2012||Letters from Birmingham
|2010||Playlist: The Very Best of Ruben Studdard
|2003||"Flying Without Wings"||2||13||27||Non-album single|
|"I Need an Angel"||—||—||32||I Need an Angel|
|2006||"Change Me"||94||18||1||The Return|
|2007||"Make Ya Feel Beautiful"||—||32||6|
|2008||"Celebrate Me Home"||—||—||—||single|
|"Don't Make 'Em Like U No More"||—||32||40|
|2012||"June 28th (I'm Single)"||73||16||Letters from Birmingham|
|2014||"Meant to Be"||—||—||—||Unconditional Love|
|2003||"Flying Without Wings"||3x Platinum|
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|American Idol winner