Sabrina Claudio’s Soulful Debut Album ‘About Time’ Is an Antidote to Sadboy R&B

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Sabrina Claudio may have turned 21 less than a month ago, but she sings like someone who’s experienced a full Saturn return’s worth of heartbreak and self-reflection. The Miami-bred, Cuban-Boricua singer is right at the precipice of youth and adulthood, but unlike many of her R&B peers, who are intoxicated (literally and figuratively) with a sense of invincibility, the inevitability of time passing and its role in romance weighs heavily on Sabrina’s mind when she puts pen to paper.

On her debut album About Time, Claudio’s vocals drip like honey over each production, which cite everything from Maxwell to bossa nova. Claudio encourages us to make love while simultaneously questioning it. It’s this intersection of love, growth, and time that permeates the aptly titled About Time, which follows last year’s warmly received Confidently Lost EP.

Preceded by two singles (both produced by Stint), the no-strings-attached anthem “Unravel Me” and the ode to self-love “Belong to You” (plus a remix of the latter featuring buzzy rapper-singer 6LACK, whom she’ll tour with this fall), About Time‘s lyrical content and hazy sonic universes provide a solid soundtrack to your cuffing season adventures.

Though her breathy, moody vocal style has been en vogue in R&B for some time now, Claudio has far more vocal presence than many of her contemporaries. Her melismatic coos manage to capture a sense of sensuality and soul that many of the sadboy R&B singers lack. And just like cuffing season romances aren’t necessarily built for the long haul, Claudio explores the possibilities and uncertainties of opening up to new lovers when time is of the essence.

“I hope it don’t take us too long now, but I’d risk forever to make it right,” Sabrina declares on the bridge to “Everlasting Love,” pumping the brakes on something with potential that may need more careful examination. On the swaying “Stand Still,” she treasures her freedom in spite of catching feelings for someone. On the deep house groove “Used To,” she laments, “I used to lose myself so I could find you quicker,” noting the danger of pouring too much of yourself into a relationship only to find yourself lost when it ends.

Claudio isn’t all cynical when it comes to finding the one – there are plenty of feels to go around for those looking for slow-dance material. On “Wanna Know,” Sabrina says the only love worth having is one that matches the earth-shattering romance she shares with her partner. And on “Frozen,” a highlight of this collection, Sabrina sings of a love “nothing compares to,” as she and her lover “forget the world even exists” over a smoky, D’Angelo-inspired instrumental. It’s the kind of love that momentarily disrupts her from being overwhelmed by what the future may hold.

Claudio, who writes all of her own lyrics, has admitted she doesn’t necessarily draw on autobiographical events to craft her songs; she is barely 21, after all. But the fact that she captures the depth of these experiences so effortlessly in her performance suggests that she will make one hell of an album once she actually deals with some good old-fashioned heartbreak. Regardless, it’s obvious that she values the autonomy to dedicate time when it comes to matters of the heart.

“You watch me open, bloom, wilt, rot, and start over,” Sabrina whispers on the poem that opens About Time. “Time, giving so much, and then taking everything away. And I wonder this time, next year, what will it look like?” While romantic entanglements of the future remain a mystery for most of us, one thing’s for sure: Claudio seems poised to make her mark in the R&B universe.