Pop

Sabrina Claudio Is Vying To Be R&B’s Next Big Star

Sabrina Claudio has a voice like silk. It’s the kind that never wavers, even when the audience is screaming, even when complications with surprise guests are looming, and even when it’s the first of two back-to-back sold-out shows in Los Angeles, not to mention the first night of a tour. Maybe these circumstances affect Claudio internally, as she laughs while alluding to the stress of some of them later while backstage in the green room, but there was no palpable impact on her performance externally while she was up on stage.

Her new tour takes its “Truth Is” from a song of the same name that she debuted this past Friday, which is also the title track for her newly announced album. That new cut made her lengthy setlist along with a couple other unreleased tracks that will be on her sophomore album, which is slated for release on October 4 via Atlantic Records, who signed the young R&B singer off the strength of her earlier, independent releases that racked up enough plays and buzz on social media to break into the Billboard R&B and Emerging Artist charts. Though she’s already known for vulnerable, sultry songs that veer toward heart-on-the-sleeve songwriting, Claudio upped the ante on her title track by co-writing it with 2019’s reigning queen of tender pop balladry, Julia Michaels.

Sabrina and Julia wrote the song during their first session together, and based off the other new singles released from her forthcoming record — the reckless excellence of “Holding The Gun,” the possessive ballad “As Long As You’re Asleep,” and seductive doubting of “On My Shoulders” — Truth Is is going to hold nothing back. While R&B as a genre has long been concerned with romantic fidelity and mania, Claudio’s take is updated for a generation that’s grown up with access to more surveillance and information about potential partners than any that came before. And though her songs aren’t necessarily technology-centric, these underpinnings inform the jealousy and betrayal they embody.

But things aren’t always bad in her songwriting world, and if the plethora of couples I spotted making out throughout the evening on Saturday night can be taken as evidence, her songs are just as likely to inspire throes of passion as warn against them. Kicking off the evening by stepping out from behind a glimmering diamond current made up of literal jewels (that probably weren’t really valuable, let’s be honest), the ever-wavering sheet of light behind her added a dramatic flair to the evening, transforming the Wiltern into an elegant backdrop where Claudio could work her magic.

Even sitting still, perched on a stool, she was able to command the rowdy, sold-out weekend crowd to listen intently to the majority of her quieter numbers, and, of course, to rally and make some noise when she brought out the surprise guest of the evening — TDE’s resident R&B crooner, SiR — who joined her to not only sing “Happy Birthday,” but also perform their collaboration, “That’s Why I Love You” off his new album Chasing Summer.

Born on September 19, 1996, Claudio just turned 23, and recently faced criticism for an old Twitter account that surfaced, filled with regrettable commentary about other women of color. It’s another flashpoint of accountability for young artists coming up with early social media presence, who might’ve made uneducated comments as teens without knowledge of the full impact of their words. Taking full responsibility, Claudio apologized for her past behavior and has clearly been focused on putting together a new album that better encompasses the scope of who she is — and who she wants to be.

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