David Hernandez: Kingdom: The Mixtape

Posted October 22, 2018 by in Pop



3.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Genre: Pop, R&B
Producer: Various
Label: Hernandez Worldwide
Format: Digital download, streaming
Time: 60:31
Release Date: 20 September 2018
Spin This: "Battle Cry," "Kingdom," "Break"


Hernandez breaks through with a handful of thrashing ballads and glossy pop; inserts lots of character using inspiration, transparency and sexual appetite


Exhaustive album length and filler gets in the way; production value on some tracks feels unfinished

Idol veteran pulls through with satisfying giant mega album

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Idol veteran pulls through with satisfying giant mega album

davidhernandez-00After leaving the American Idol season seven competition a decade ago, David Hernandez has covered everyone else’s material over the years on the live stage, while dropping the occasional EP and promo single on digital platforms. And despite not rising to the peaks of Billboard charts as his fellow Idol alumni, he’s remained active and in the spotlight by working relentlessly as a musical ambassador at many Pride celebrations since coming out as gay. But finally, he’s dropped the album of his career.

At first glance, Kingdom: The Mixtape may not have been the wisest choice of album title choice, or its apocalyptic-meets-bionic cover art bearing a cyborg hand holding up a black crown, confusing on-lookers as if this could be a Christian inspirational album teased with subliminal prophecy. Those judging a book by its cover will probably glance over what’s on the inside. Their loss: Hernandez actually pulls off some unique stellar moments, thanks to crafty pop design, effective vocals and a production upgrade compared to usual from album packages from Idol alumni.

Things kick off with the thunderous midtempo gem “Battle Cry,” which possess a soaring chorus with OneRepublic swag. It’s the perfect opener, exposing the beauty of Hernandez’s range atop whirly synths and booming beats. He teams up with Idol bud Blake Lewis on the touching title track, a ballad dripping with a Calum Scott-Sam Smith gloss thanks to its effective piano, swelling strings, Sunday morning tambourine and mountaintop choir responses. And with over twenty tracks aboard (yes, you read right), this is the album highlight for sure. There are other good moments are pretty good aboard: “Dear My Future Self” acts as an encouragement time capsule embossed in more AC-pop glow; “Dreams Can’t Die” work in similar fashion, although the over-and-over shtick seems to be wearing thin by this point. And some tracks are pleasant, but feels middle-of-the-road when compared with the stronger tracks: “Never Did” melodically sounds like a milder poppier version of Fantasia’s “Lose to Win” while “Shield (Coat of Armor)” tries too hard to sound like Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”

The album (or mixtape) is also a tad bit lengthy, stretching across twenty-three tracks and no short interlude breaks in sight. Stretching to the length of one hour and 31 minutes, it’s as if Hernandez is on a mission to prove he’s in this music game for good. And he’s made himself loud and clear, creating an expansive mega album that puts him in the big leagues of Migos, Drake and Lana Del Ray. And it’s gloriously diverse, spilling over with a myriad of styles in pop, R&B and dance. Several of the tracks are powered by Black Eyed Peas sidekick Printz Board, who acts as his David Guetta by dropping the electropop gamut on him – a perfect security for queer clubland.

Yes, Hernandez uses religious imagery inside a chunk of his lyrics, which may explain the whole kingdom connection. You hear it the heartfelt sacrifice of “Shield (Coat of Armor)” and referenced in his breakup letter on “Last Supper.” It spills into “Battle Cry,” where he cries “Ain’t no medication when you’re with salvation, no.” Some of the song titles give off churchspeak vibes, but please don’t be fooled: This isn’t some holy-roller rollercoaster. Deep inside Kingdom, Hernandez bravely sheds some of his squeaky clean luster by going for raw, audacious subject matter. He gets hypersexual, even explicitly angry at times (“WTF”). On the opening segment of “Break,” he spills details on the transformation to finally be and to fight back against a system that tried to keep him appearing square. On the backend of it, he unveils his constant wrestle with his loudest demons: “I still struggle with thangs/Substance abuse, sex and fame, I’m not ashamed.” And then there are the instances where he blends flatulent sexuality with religious undertones. “Let’s make these sheets unholy/Touch me til’ the choir sings,” Hernandez sings on the ‘80’s-akin “Pocket. And on “Half of My Soul,” a track with Timbaland-meets-Justin Timberlake beats, he utters, “Yeah I give in, my favorite sin.” And as for unfiltered sex, well, it doesn’t get lustier than “Animal.” On the Printz Board-produced track, Hernandez’s sex drive hits the max: “Come [cum] on me and just let it flow…I say aye-oh, I want to eat you al-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ive.” But all that naughty eventually gets shut down as the album nears the finishing line. He pulls through with soul empowerment on “Yourself” and “Hold On,” the latter roaring like a R Kelly power ballad and featuring a duet with Sly Young.

There are a few pitfalls, to be expected with a gargantuan album of this size. The abuse of Autotune on “Runnin” is probably unforgivable. And sure, some of the tracks’ production value seems so 2000-ish. Plus, the energy goes up and down due to the exhaustive time length of the album, but he’s modeling his musical independence after blueprints made by YouTube famous Todrick Hall, another Idol grad with LGBTQ ties. Why did it take so long for Hernandez — a talent with lots of commercial appeal — to find his groove, we’ll probably never know why. But smart tracks like “Kingdom,” “Battle Cry” and “Never Did” — all AC-filled songs bearing his soul atop sweeping pop balladry — are glowing affirmations of his musical strengths.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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