A lot has changed on American Idol since Ruben Studdard became the second winner 7 years ago. The R&B crooner aka “velvet teddy bear” says his season didn’t have the luxury of a live band nor did he get to meet Ellen DeGeneres or Kara DioGuardi as judges. In addition, the show’s ratings then were on the rise, unlike this season’s 10% decrease with critics blaming lackluster talent.
“It always makes me laugh when people say the show isn’t as good,” Studdard tells VIBE. “People forget that performers progress as the season goes on. Everybody turns into an artist literally at the last three weeks before the end so I don’t make any comments until I see who’s on the top of the class."
So far Studdard is betting on guitar strumming Casey James, but he's aware of comparisons drawn between he and Michael Lynche. "It’s not because we sound alike,” says Studdard with a chuckle, "I think people just compare us because he’s a big Black guy and I’m a big Black guy."
Another change will be Simon Cowell’s departure when the year is over⎯an upset that Studdard admits will drastically change the show.
“The show will be very different without Cowell, but they have to move on,” says Studdard.
While Idol producers are entertaining the possibility of Howard Stern taking the reigns, Mr. Velvet Teddy Bear has his own idea of who would be a good choice. “Diddy would be a good fit because he has that no nonsense attitude when he’s picking artists but it’s still going to be a hard spot to fill,” he says.
Studdard, who’s latest single "Don’t Make 'Em Like U No More" is still climbing R&B charts, is currently working on his fifth album. It’s in the early stages but he’s pushing for a fourth quarter release, and he still maintains faith that the show where he got his start will help birth more future stars. “As long as America wants to have a part in making people's dreams come true, the show will go on.” ⎯Starrene Rhett