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.
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