The American Idolsecond-season champ's rendition of Kenny Loggins' 1977 song "Celebrate Me Home" will serve as the seventh-season "farewell song" heard after each of the Top 12 finalists is eliminated from the competition, The Hollywood Reporterreported Friday.
"It's very soulful, very heartfelt," Terry Lewis -- who is producing the song with Jimmy Jam -- told The Reporter. "Ruben is singing his pants off."
While Studdard was dropped by his J Records label in December -- the "Velvet Teddy Bear" is still signed to 19 Entertainment, the production/management company behind Idol. Studdard's "Celebrate Me Home" represents the first time a recording was done for the sole purpose of being used as Idol's exit song.
"Ruben has never left our fold," Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe toldBillboard. "[With] the success that we've had with the play-off song, I wanted to keep it in-house."
The success Lythgoe is referencing began during Idol's Spring 2006 fifth season when Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" served as the "farewell song" and eventually sold 1.9 million copies and was the year's top digital download.
Last season, former fifth-season finalist Chris Daughtry's "Home" served as Idol's "farewell song." It went on to receive a Grammy nod and helped his band's self-titled debut album sell more than 3.6 million copies since its release last November.
Ian Pirie, head of 19 Entertainment's U.S. division, thought "Home" had the "perfect sentiment" to be Idol's sixth-season "farewell song," and he feels the same way about Studdard's "Celebrate Me Home."
"Each year we think about what's going to reflect that really special TV moment," Pirie told Billboard. "Musically and lyrically, it fits it perfectly."
Due to Apple's new Idol sponsorship "Celebrate Me Home" will be available via iTunes starting March 12 -- the night Idol 7's first Top 12 finalist is eliminated. In addition, Pirie told Billboard that Studdard's rendition of the song is expected to be included on one of the annual Idol compilation albums and he is also "in negotiations" to perform it during Fox'sIdol Gives Back broadcast on April 9.
One of the reasons Pirie said Studdard was chosen to record the "farewell song" was because of the "warm reception" he received from fans during Idol 6'sfinale broadcast, Billboard reported.
Since Loggins' original "Celebrate Me Home" recording is traditionally viewed as a Christmas song due to its first line -- "Home for the holidays" -- Lythgoe told Billboard the mention has been "excised" to make it less seasonal and added Studdard has also given it an "updated feel."
Studdard's song will be the third exit song used during American Idol's seventh season. Ferras' "Hollywood's Not America" was used as the "farewell song" during Idol 7's Hollywood Round, while Graham Colton's "Best Days" is currently being used after semifinalists are cut from the competition.
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