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Derrick Dunn

Album Review : Ruben Studdard, The Way I Remember It

Following his 2018 Luther Vandross cover album, Season 2 American Idol winner Ruben Studdard returns to the original material for his eighth album, The Way I Remember It.

Over this past summer, Ruben began promoting his album with the release of “The Way I Remember It.” The song’s opening chords may remind listeners of the seventies slow approach Silk Sonic took in their smash hit “Leave The Door Open.” Ruben’s velvet voice sounds pristine, making Teddy P and Luther proud as he croons about the first time he meets a special lady.

The official first single is single, “W.I.F.E.” The song finds the singer using an acronymic approach as he elegantly croons about the woman he recently married, spelling out her qualities. As someone who just attended the wedding of two of my closest friends, where I served as the best man, and who has been married for fifteen years, this song is very nice. While it leans towards the commercial side, Ruben doesn’t overdo the riffs and runs, which is perfectly fine.

“Masterpiece” is the album’s final promotional single. Studdard avoids the safe route of redoing the Atlantic Starr classic. On the contrary, he crafts a song paying homage to a woman’s natural beauty. In 2023, AI technology and filters are all the rage. Therefore, it is always refreshing to hear a crooner pay homage to a woman’s natural beauty.

Ruben kicks off the album with the mid-tempo track “Gretzky.” In this song, he expresses his appreciation for life and readiness to go out with his female companions. Despite its title, the song contains no crass comparisons to hockey or bedroom bravado. Instead, Ruben sings about his gift of gab and his way with words, and surprisingly, the song works better than expected. Even when he sings about “yams,” it doesn’t appear comical.

The rest of the album showcases the crooner’s talent for singing about love. “Everybody’s Type” and “Magic” act as semi-sequels to “Masterpiece,” and they work well. However, “SMH” and “Cigars & Burns” feel like filler tracks, perhaps due to their placement in the album’s sequence. Both songs are good, but they disrupt the album’s overall vibe.

The same vibe carries over to the album’s final two songs, “Eyes Closed” and “Picture Perfect .”The former gives Studdard an overly thirsty vibe, while “Picture Perfect” is an attempt at something for the dance floor. The whole vibe of the album is about Ruben being in wedded bliss, so a shift in some songs would have made for a cohesive project.

The Way I Remember It validates Studdard’s natural old soul and keen talent for singing ballads. While some of the material is on the same side, Ruben’s latest project is worth a listen for R&B fans.

Final Grade: B

The Way I Remember It is available on all streaming platforms now.

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