'Idol' alum is goodbye guy

Studdard will sing 'farewell song'

Ruben Studdard is back on "American Idol's" radar.

The Season 2 winner will perform the "farewell song" used to play off contestants as they are eliminated from the top 12. This year, the song will be a cover of Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home," in a new version produced by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam.

"It's very soulful, very heartfelt," Lewis said. "Ruben is singing his pants off."

As part of "Idol's" new sponsorship with iTunes this season, "Celebrate Me Home" will be made available digitally starting March 12, the day the first of the top 12 will be sung off. It's also expected to be included on one of the compilation albums annually released by "American Idol," according to Iain Pirie, head of 19 Entertainment U.S.

Season 5's farewell song, Daniel Powter's "Bad Day," went on to sell 1.9 million copies and was the top digital download of 2006.

It's a significant gig for Studdard, who was dropped by J Records in December. He is, however, still managed by "Idol's" 19 Entertainment and under contract to subsidiary 19 Recordings, a link that paved the way for him to return to the show as the song's performer.

Pirie said the idea to have Studdard record the track came after the warm reception he received after appearing on the finale of "Idol" last season.

"Celebrate Me Home," originally the title track of Loggins' 1977 album, traditionally has been thought of as a Christmas tune. Lythgoe said the first line of the song — "Home for the holidays" — has been excised to make it less seasonal.

Ann Donahue is senior editor at Billboard.