When I first heard the opening chords of Sabrina Claudio’s newest single, “Unravel Me”, I thought it was nothing special. A simple blend of the R&B and neosoul sounds we know and love–moist synths, measured rim shots, intermittent kick and Sabrina Claudio’s earthy tone–but with an overall impression of being underproduced. However, as I continued to listen, distractedly bobbing my head along while scrolling through the internet, I reached the hook and found myself enjoying the song much much more than I had originally anticipated, within 45 seconds convinced this was one of the best tracks I’d heard all week and quickly restarting the song to see what I had missed.
So what happened?
This song is a slow burn, its success reliant not on the element of surprise but instead on its ability to subtly fold layer after layer of new sound into the mix, each additional shift contributing to a more well-rounded production. Sabrina Claudio begins the single with a solid (if a bit average and underproduced) base of chords, kick, and lightly reverberated vocals. I initially thought the empty quality of the first 20 seconds made the track seem rather pedestrian, the emptiness more a problem with the production than a conscious choice. However, she uses this to her advantage, contrasting the simple production at the beginning with more complex instrumentation as the song builds, filling in the empty spaces with fuller, lusher synths, horn samples (or perhaps even real horns?), and powerful mixing on the vocals. Her voice may just begin with reverb, but like the instrumentation, it grows more complex and layered through the addition of harmonies and vocal manipulation, saturating the song in sultry R&B goodness and giving “Unravel Me” the soul and listenability it was missing initially. By the time we get to the hook, the modulation of the “me” in “unravel me” is downright heavenly, a perfect climax for this musical slow burn as Sabrina Claudio’s voice floats effortlessly over the track. It’s my favorite part–I listen again and again just to hear it.
In the second verse, the instrumentation and voice doesn’t revert back to verse one’s style but instead starts with a fuller sound and builds from there. Thus, the second time the hook plays it doesn’t have as effective of a punch and I wish she would have added some variation between the two hooks, especially since they seem to be a copy paste of each other. Regardless, Sabrina Claudio’s talent for building sound, voice, and production from intro to hook is masterly. If she can figure out how to add variation throughout the entire song as well, she’ll be able to craft great songs in the future.