Christmas spirit is typically captured through overly joyous production and plenty of jingles to spare, but for Sabrina Claudio, the R&B powerhouse wanted to do something different with holiday cheer and that she did on Christmas Blues.
Marking her first-holiday project, the Miami-born singer’s album hears her caress her way through an eight-song set as she draws listeners into a more intimate holiday atmosphere. With five original tracks and three covers, the soundtrack swerves traditional upbeat spirit in favor of soothing vocals, rich production and an ode to something a little more naughty. It fondles, massages and makes you feel all the things that holiday music typically wouldn't make you feel. But it works.
Interestingly enough, the EP was recorded over the summer, alongside singer-songwriter Nasri Atweh and producer Kaveh Rastegar, after Claudio's opening slot on The Weeknd's "After Hours Tour" was nixed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Feeling uninspired to create, her manager, Wassim "Sal" Slaiby, suggested she release a holiday song for the hell of it and she ran with the idea, recruiting Abel and Alicia Keys along the way on original cuts, "Christmas Blues," and "Winter Time," respectively. The best part of its creation, according to the star, is that the dreamy project was made free of intent, resulting in “one of the most liberating creative journeys” for the singer.
"Naturally, it’s almost impossible for me to avoid looking through my lens so as a result, everything I write, whether it be about Christmas, for an album [or] even covering a song, always has that consistent sound," Claudio told iHeartRadio of the set's torchy sonics. "I also just wanted to make a Christmas album that I personally would want to listen to. Don't get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the classics and the jolly tunes. I just looked at it more so as a challenge to see what it would feel like to incorporate my sensual sound into a traditionally joyous season."
Part of her recipe for tunneling classics like “Oh Holy Night“ and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" through her lens involved evoking her own sense of nostalgia. "I've always known that if I were to ever create a Christmas album, these would be the covers I'd want to include," she admitted of the selections, adding that they each have memories attached to them, particularly performing the former during high school concerts and competitions.
Growing up, Claudio described her childhood memories as nothing more than "blissful” as her entire family of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent would gather together on Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, where things got loud and wild. As a child, she was lucky enough to have parents and extended family that made every year a moment, but the essence of the season still rings true. "Living in LA now away from most of my family, traditions have changed slightly but the core of Christmas still means the same to me and that’s to spend it with the people I love most," she said.
Christmas Blues also sees the singer pair her sultry sounds with a homage to Le Crazy Horse de Paris, a Parisian variety cabaret show known for its dazzling female dancers, which was introduced to her by creative directors prince & jacob. "We were playing with the idea of doing some sort of showgirl setting for the video just based off of the vibe we get when listening to 'Warm December' and they had sent over a few references from the show that made me fall in love completely," she explained, admitting that she hopes she did the showgirls justice.
As we wrap up one memorable year, to say the least, Claudio is looking to spend the holiday with her immediate family and rediscover the inspiration that she's been missing since the pandemic took over our lives. “I’ve had my fair share of incredibly rough days and moments throughout this year but I kept finding myself trying to look at the positives which is so new for me. I’ve just realized the important things in life and I’ve made it my goal to only focus my energy on that," she told us.
When it comes to the follow-up to 2019's Truth, Claudio wants her next project to carry meaning behind it, so it might take some time. That said, if Christmas Blues is any indication of genuine inspiration, her next album will be worth the wait. "The Christmas album was an inspiration in itself because it kept my spirits up through quarantine," she explained. "However, I’m going back into writing mode in January in hopes that something will spark something special."
Photo: prince & jacob