Every so often, a new artist comes along with enough drive, hustle and power to get where they’re going. Sometimes it’s in the look, or their presence as they step into a room; others imbue it straight into their music. CLAUDIA VALENTINA, a 19-year-old pop superstar-in-waiting, has all bases covered, and she’s leapt over those first stages of music industry BS to become an artist with the skills to win over those who dare to doubt her. Prepare yourself: she is pop's dominant, confident new force.
A dot in the sea between England and France, Guernsey is an unusual birthplace of a popstar, but at the turn of the century, this is where the story of Claudia Valentina begins. A "millennium baby," she was raised in the quaint surroundings of lush greenery and seaside -- doing outdoors things -- but inside she was living and breathing pop culture. “It was a normal life,” she says, “but I was doing full time theatre – singing dancing and acting -- after school and every weekend.” At age 10, having spotted an advert for young stars looking to make their West End debut, she travelled to London and auditioned for a part in Billy Elliot: “That was the last part of my normal life,” she says.
Within three months she was living in a dream: busying about London and performing to audiences in the West End for a living, attending Sylvia Young Theatre School on the side. Having spent a year there, by that point she'd caught the bug. The idea of going back to Guernsey, school life and normality was the last thing on her mind. “I was doing what felt like the best thing in the world,” she says.
So she escaped, and was lucky enough to live out the fantasy most kids her age dreamt of. At the age of 12, she and her mother parted ways with Guernsey and moved to Los Angeles to start the journey to where she is today. It was the kind of path that young people with certain life goals all take – the lure of kids TV stardom – but even then she knew it would pay off eventually as a through road to making her own music. “I was trying to audition for all of the things that everybody else was... I got sucked into it, and was auditioning every day,” she says. “Everything felt like the biggest thing in the world, but it was never real. Then I realized I wasn’t that kid. I felt like I had to fake it.” She read between the lines and chose to focus on music instead.
But off the back of that major hustling in LA, she wound up in the studio with some of the most prolific pop producers in the business. At the age of 13, she was writing songs with Johan Carlsson, a right-hand man to pop heavyweight Max Martin. He gave her some good advice: “He told me that I needed life experience at first, and I was like ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’, but he was so right,” she says. “So I forgot about the ‘trying to make it’ thing, and just got super into making music instead.”
Over time, that’s what they did. It was a serendipitous meeting of two pop minds: Carlsson a master at his craft, Claudia a fledgling talent who had the confidence to know what she wanted to make. The past few years have been, at her own admission, rather crazy. School life took the back seat amongst it all, including her GCSEs. She flew back to sit them, having to study at night after studio sessions and on the red-eye home. "All A grades somehow!" she laughs.
After school finished, the vision of what her career as an artist, as much as an in-demand songwriter, started to come to the forefront. After a track she co-wrote suddenly wound up in the hands of every pop musician of note, each of them desperate to have it for themselves (more on that later), people started to ponder who the talented voice behind it was. “It was like my dream,” she says. “All of a sudden, people wanted to meet me.” Claudia suddenly became hot property but held back on jumping into the management deals and offers that were laid out on the table and continued to focus on her writing.
The results of those many writing sessions which are still ongoing with Johan and a collective of others – were crystal clear pop hits in the making. Listen to the handful of songs she has under her belt already, and you’ll hear her ability to slip from one persona to the next. For starters, she penned the seductive hook on Wiley’s “My One:” a gigantic international summer hit that’s racked up millions of streams.
And with her own voice front and center, tracks like the simple piano ballad “Seven,” harnessed by her pristine vocals and biting lyrics, showcase her vulnerable side with a twist. The pain of being screwed over has passed, and she’s dwelling on how little time she’ll give him to make it up to her: “I’m taking off my make-up / I ain’t gonna wait up so you can let me down” she sings, offering him an ultimatum: “Make me count down seven to one, and trust me, I’m gone.” It was written in her first session with James Newman (who wrote chart toppers “Blame” by Calvin Harris and “Waiting All Night” by Rudimental) in London. “I guess I was really in my feels that day and the lyrics kinda wrote themselves,” she says of its creation. “A lot of people can relate to feeling a bit stupid for waiting up for someone, and that person never showing up. I tend to write songs about being more of a bad bitch in the driver’s seat, but it’s important to be honest and realize that everyone gets let down a few times.”
That level of agency Claudia refers to there – a rarity for an artist in the early stages of their career – is what sets her apart from her peers. From an early age, her dad imbued her with a "big boss energy" that she cultivated on her own terms. “That’s who I am as a person,” she says. “I’m definitely not fluffy. I’m over that!”
Claudia has a measured ability to know what she wants from her music and how to articulate that to those she collaborates with. It bleeds into everything she makes, including the breathless, flamenco grind of “Sweat:” “Slow down I know you’re getting too excited!” she winks. “... If you wanna put your hands on it, beg for it, sweat.” The unambiguous message from “Down 2 Bizzness” transcends, from some simple synths into a scorching future hit. Those husky vocals lather over her songs like syrup, like they belong to her and no one else.
Then there’s the clever message at the heart of “4:15am,” an anthem for anybody familiar with the “U up?” text from fuckboys the world over. In it, she plays into the predictability of thirsty, doe-eyed lads. She calls it “a kinda fucked up love story about that one guy… and no matter how many times you tell yourself not to go there, there’s a knock on your door every night and you can’t help yourself.” It’s the one that, after she wrote it with David Stewart and Jessica Agomba, wound up in the hands of several pop stars who wanted to record it. But the luck of the universe brought it back to Claudia; a sultry, razor sharp anti-love song to call her own. “I’m excited to get it out to the world now,” she says.
You can see these songs in the places Claudia Valentina will take them already: mesmeric chart smashes that will resonate with a million young women who’ve spent too long being force fed a narrative they don’t care for. Heartbreak? Not on her time.