Despite her humble beginnings on Soundcloud, stereotypical of seemingly every emerging artist in this modernized world, Sabrina Claudio has distinguished herself with the sheer weight of her voice, velvet in texture and angelic when deployed in her higher register.
She’s not a female powerhouse, per se, but the rising star has just as much swagger as one. It’s no wonder why Apple Music has chosen to feature her in their most recent edition of “Up Next,” a documentary series aimed at highlighting new singers.
At first glance, Claudio’s music is flawless: surreal production complemented by an embracing voice like no other. As you gaze past the luxurious sonic landscape and start searching for meaning in the words of her first mixtape, “About Time,” however, Claudio falls short.
Poetry appears to be the R&B frontrunner’s forte on introduction, “About Time,” stripped of the grandiose production that Sabrina is renowned for in her EP “Confidently Lost” and her formative online covers.
“In the life of a rose, I’ve lived and died a hundred times./You want to be open, bloom, wilt, rot, and start over,” she confesses in the opening lines of this prologue to love and lust. This air of vulnerability then amplifies as the recording comes to a close, desperation seeping from Claudio’s last utterances.
Time giving so much and taking everything away.
Sabrina makes no mistake by beginning the album with “About Time,” dictated through melancholic realizations; listeners are able to explore her mind through this spoken track. She showcases her personal experiences through a one-minute narration, something few singers, in general, are afraid to do. This revealing lyricism is a fluke, though, a vague, depersonalized love instead exemplified obviously in “Stand Still.”
In concordance with the song’s title, interludes of production stall, an adept and literal standstill, to emphasize Claudio’s initial lines: “Time stands still/While we stand here.” Her words eloquently illustrate how love can fathom a new world for enamored couples, but, at the same time, they’re cliché; I can imagine scrolling through Instagram for no more than a couple of seconds before stumbling upon some variation of the trite phrase. Not to mention that these words disparage her refrain in “Frozen,” the eighth recording on the album, where she croons, “Time will be frozen for us.”
Dull and redundant, Claudio struggles to find another way to depict the mystifying and transcending forces of love. The repetition is almost pitiful and simultaneously gives reason to listeners to overlook any glimpse of sophistication present on “About Time” for bland lyricism that could have been sung by an other artists. After all, the only valuable ideas are the ones only you can tell, aren’t they?
Shallow lyrics bleed nothing on “Wanna Know,” where Claudio admits, “I wanna know if you care for me,” to the down-tempo sounds of guitar and piano. Naivete seems to overwhelm the artist to her rawest insecurities, and she chooses not to acknowledge the beliefs she established in the first song of the album about the endless cycle of love, about how everything will eventually restart and a second opportunity will arise. To neglect these contradictory moments of ignorance and sensibility is an arduous task in itself; I mean, I understand that practicing what you preach, not being hypocritical, is easier said than done. But for music that will be immortalized through the Internet and CDs and vinyls, there’s a certain amount of effort that’s warranted that Claudio doesn’t seem to give. She instead sacrifices the influence of her words for relatability, producing a commercial effect instead of one worthwhile.
There are, nonetheless, key tracks on “About Time” that reassure fans of Claudio’s potential, one of them being “Used To.” Regret is present, but triumph prevails as she discerns, “I used to lose myself so I could love you better.” Sometimes, listening to yourself, being self-determining and seeking no validation from anyone else, is what must happen; you shouldn’t look at a morphed picture of yourself, compromise individuality, for an artificial love. Claudio is well aware of this fact and ensures that her audience also gets the memo, passing on wisdom about the necessity to stave away from relationships built upon an inability to accept someone for who they are. This largess, besides crafting an unforgettable line for the record, reasserts why the singer has received so much attention since her Soundcloud days: she is willing and able to utilize her songs as journals, warts and all, to help people know that they’re not alone and enable them to learn from her mistakes.
“Wait” closes Claudio’s debut, and proves that this album is not her first rodeo. The ornate, elevator music-like production accompanied by concise prose (“Do I want ya? Do I need you?”) reflect that the singer has learned from her history. She’s seen love on both ends of the spectrum, from a temporary lust driven by the heat of a moment, to a tangible passion derived from acceptance, and is now able to react accordingly before venturing into her newest romance.
The lyrics aren’t safe, but are a product of maturity; Claudio takes a step back to evaluate whether or not this love has meaning, instead of rushing into a relationship for superficial reasons. It’s promising, to say the least.
So what exactly does that mean for this newcomer on the R&B scene?
She can only go up.
(Album Rating: 7.0)