For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Slow Jam Saturday : Ruben Studdard, Make Ya Feel Beautiful
After dabbling in gospel music on the I Need an Angel album, Season 2 American Idol winner Ruben Studdard returned to R&B for his third album, The Return. “Change Me” was the album’s first single, however the album’s second single, “Make Ya Feel Beautiful,” is the pick for this week’s Slow Jam Saturday.
Ruben linked up with producer Shea Taylor for the song production while Ne-Yo handled the writing. Ruben eases into the first verse, “First off let me start by saying I ain’t trying to get in your jeans. First I’d rather learn your ups and downs and everything in between” and it comes off as organic and natural. Taylor’s lush arrangements give Studdard a chance to show out vocally without ever over-signing the song. Outside of “Make Ya Beautiful” though, there was not anything memorable on The Return, due to the producer’s inability to connect with the singer.
Early comparisons likened Studdard to a Luther Vandross, or Teddy Pendergrass due to his keen talent for singing ballads. Studdard could have a substantial career as a balladeer and songs like this validated that. Given that Studdard has an old soul, his label should have pushed him more in that direction.
However, Studdard is a natural talent, and it is a shame that his career never really took off, despite his later offerings (notably 2013’s Unconditional Love) properly using his voice with adequate production.
Nevertheless, “Make Ya Feel Beautiful” is a solid slow jam that I revisit fourteen years after release.
Final Grade: B-
“Make Ya Feel Beautiful” from The Return is available on all streaming platforms.
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
As we continue to celebrate the month of love, I chose “Valentine by Ryan Leslie as the second song with the word valentine for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. Leslie broke into the music industry in 2003, writing hits for Beyoncé and New Edition. Leslie released the singles “The Way That U Move Girl” and “Used 2 Be” featuring Fabolous. However, his debut album was never officially released due to creative differences with his record label. In late 2007, Leslie finally broke through with the bop “Diamond Girl,” and his self-titled album would finally hit record stores on February 10, 2009. Leslie also succeeded with the follow-up singles “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.” Surprisingly, though, Leslie didn’t drop “Valentine” as the fourth single, which would have timed perfectly with the album release date.