If somehow you failed to see Donald Ray King’s electrifying performances as a Top 12 contestant on Season 14 of The Voice last year, the first thing that may hit your consciousness when you see his provocative artist moniker is an image of MLK. Turns out, that lofty association isn’t just a whimsical name game.
It makes perfect metaphorical sense once you learn about the Cleveland native’s ascent from poverty to achieve his dream, which now includes joining his Voice mentor Kelly Clarkson on tour and releasing It’s My Life – the budding soul superstar’s hard hitting, funked up yet sensual old school R&B debut.
It aligns beautifully with the biting social injustice message and soul searing gospel-inflected vibe of his latest single, the infectious jam “Gravedigger.” Produced and co-written by two time Grammy winning songwriter-producer Mark Swersky (Joe Cocker, Kesha, Roger Daltrey) and veteran tunesmith Brielle Brown, the EP was cut live in the studio and rolls like a vibrant and emotionally urgent, in your face performance throughout. King, who may remind listeners of John Legend with less croon and more grit and edge, isn’t always in cultural empowerment mode.
Passionate expressions like the blues tinged “Anyway” and Quiet Stormish “Crying Alone” reveal a heartfelt romantic side, while “Do You Love Me” showcases his playful retro-funk side. Another highlight that King’s fans from “The Voice” will embrace is “Love Is A Drug,” a rousing power ballad performed as a duet with his onetime TV rival (and duet partner) Jackie Foster.
The two made Voice history when they became the first two contestants to perform Harry Styles “Sign of the Times” and not be eliminated from the competition; the song reached #22 on the iTunes pop singles chart.