Ruben Studdard isn't a stranger to television. Back in American Idol's infancy, the velvet-throated crooner sang his heart out for 16 weeks until being crowned winner of the show's second season. Recently, he got back in front of the cameras as a contestant on The Biggest Loser, trying once and for all to get control of his weight. Through his triumphs and struggles, he has gathered new fans, welcoming them with his innate sense of soul and rich, milky vocals.
Back in his American Idol days in 2003, it was guest judge Gladys Knight who nicknamed Studdard the "velvet teddy bear," a moniker that has followed the singer. What has also followed him are comparisons to quiet storm heroes such as Luther Vandross and Donny Hathaway. When we asked the Alabama native to make us a playlist of his favorite love songs for Valentine's Day, he didn't shy away from including those artists. (In fact, on his new album, Unconditional Love, the singer covers songs from both.) And not only did Studdard give us this smokin' hot playlist, he also told us why he chose the songs he did.
"For All We Know," Donny Hathaway: "For All We Know" has been my favorite song for as long as I can remember.
"If Only for One Night," Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn: They made this classic Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell song shine. It just makes you wanna slow dance.
"Ooo Baby Baby," Smokey Robinson: I always wished I would've been alive during the Motown heyday and be signed to the label; Smokey Robinson is one of the main reasons why.
"Distant Lover," Marvin Gaye: There is a live version of this song that still plays constantly on the radio in Birmingham. The way these women lose their minds when Marvin sings that first note is classic. This song needs no explanation.
"Turn Off the Lights," Teddy Pendergrass: This song is sexy and straightforward. Teddy spells out exactly what he wants that woman to do. I think she loved it -- LOL!
"Love Ballad," L.T.D: Some voices just stick to your mind like glue. Jeffrey Osborne has one of those voices.
"Cry Together," The O'Jays: My favorite classic soul group. You can never go wrong with a song from The O'Jays.
"Can't Get Over You," Frankie Beverly and Maze: I have to see Frankie Beverly live at least once a year. I love most all of his songs, but this one is special. Joe even remade it, and I love his version, too.
"Adore," Prince: Prince is just … Prince. 'Nuff said.
"Let's Stay Together," Al Green: This love song is soul music at its best. Al Green delivers time and time again.
"I'm So Proud," The Impressions: One of the great vocal soul groups.
"Just Because," Johnnie Taylor: Truth, soul and emotion make a great song.
"A House Is Not a Home," Luther Vandross: So many great performances to pick from with Luther, but this one gives me chills every time I hear it.
"Let's Get It On," Marvin Gaye: No explanation needed.
"The Lady in My Life," Michael Jackson: One of the hidden gems on Thriller.