June 27, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a D+

American Idol diehards are split almost evenly between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. Which is exactly the problem with Justin Guarini’s debut. After a 10-month wait, who — with the exception of Guarini’s parents — cares about the AI first-season runner-up? Even his most rabid fans will recognize Guarini’s innocuous, focus-grouped, you-know-you-wanna-love-me ballads as songs that should be greeting Kmart shoppers. As for the Clay versus Ruben showdown, this round goes to the skinny white kid. His decadent, gospel-drenched take on ”Bridge Over Troubled Water” should have won him AI2 and will manhandle Ru’s competent but dull version of the Carpenters’ ”Superstar” (the longest three minutes ever) as well as ”Flying Without Wings” (whatever the heck that means) on the singles charts. Justin: D+ Clay: B Ruben: C+

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