When it comes to duets, second season "American Idol" champ Ruben Studdard is mostly associated with Clay Aiken, his runner-up and occasional touring partner.
But Studdard says that singing with Lalah Hathaway, daughter of the late soul great Donnie Hathaway and Studdard's current tourmate, is nothing less than divine.
"Omigod, this woman is one of the best singers I've heard in my life," gushes the Alabama-born Studdard, 35, who features Hathaway on a rendition of the Sytreeta/Billy Preston song "With You I'm Born Again" from his latest album, "Unconditional Love." "To sit and watch her do what she does and be around her...She's such a great spirit and her father was such an amazing influence on me.
"I'm not just staying this because it's me, but I think the combination of her and my voices together on stage is going to be amazing. It'll probably be reminiscent of her dad and Roberta Flack back in the (70s). I really think it can be that good."
Studdard, meanwhile, is also still in love with "Unconditional Love," a collection of, as the title suggests, love songs -- mostly covers but with two originals. The latter include "Meant To Be," the David Foster-written theme Studdard recorded for his appearance on the latest season of "The Biggest Loser," during which he dropped 119 pounds from his 462-pound weigh-in.
"(Love songs) are the thing my mother listened to while I was growing up, and I'm so used to emulating those types of singers 'cause I heard them so much as a child that those songs are completely comfortable for me," Studdard says. "I think God made me specifically for that kind of song, like how some people are made to sing rock songs but don't sing ballads really well.
"They're just songs that people hear that no matter who covers them, they still love them. So I think the album turned out beautifully and everybody is responding to it really well and people are genuinely loving the songs. It's a great fit."
Ruben Studdard and Lalah Hathaway and That Band perform Saturday, April 5, at the Garden Theater, 3929 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $37.50-$75. Call 313-832-0888 or visit www.thegardentheaterdetroit.com.
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