Second season "American Idol" champ Ruben Studdard isn't calling his new album, "Love IS," a comeback, but he does acknowledge that he hopes the May 19 release will "reconnect me to the 20-some odd million people that voted for me and...are my fans from 'American Idol.' "
Studdard tells Billboard.com that with his fourth album, produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis -- along with Stargate and country artist John Rich -- he "just wanted to do the music the fans always ask me for. Ever since I won 'American Idol,' people have always been saying they love the way I sing ballads and would love to have me do an album of love songs. I've been in the music business awhile now. I've had an opportunity to see exactly what the fans want from me and expect, and I think this is exactly the kind of album they've been waiting on."
"Love IS" also finds Studdard switching label, from J Records to Hickory Records, which is still distributed by SonyBMG but, Studdard says, is more attuned to that fan demand for ballads. "I think J Records didn't do a good job with connecting me to my 'American Idol' fan base," says Studdard, whose last outing, 2006's "The Return," was a commercial disappointment that's sold less then 240,000 copies. "I wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to make the music they want to hear, and we got that."
Studdard recorded "Love IS" during the first five months of 2008, before he went on the road with the musical "Ain't Misbehavin'." The first single, "Together," which was produced by Stargate, was the last track recorded for the album, he says. Studdard co-wrote several of the tracks, including "A Song For Her" for his wife, Surata, who he married in January of 2008, and "Footprints in the Sand," which was inspired by the Barack Obama presidential campaign.
"Love IS" also features covers of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help You," Al Green's "For the Good Times," the Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road," Extreme's "More Than Words" and Johnnie Taylor's "Just Because." "They're all favorites of mine," Studdard says of the choices.
Currently finishing his run with "Ain't Misbehavin'," Studdard plans a full-scale promotional tour to support "Love IS," including TV appearances, in-stores and radio station shows. He hopes a full-scale concert tour follows, but he's also anxious to get back into the studio.
"I was more challenged on this project than I ever have been during the recording process," Studdard says. "I hope I'm with a label now that will continue to give me the opportunity to have more hands-on input in the songs we choose and the direction of the album. I'm just really pleased with the way this album cycle went, and hopefully I'll get a chance to do another one shortly thereafter."