The Philadelphia R&B singer’s stark, lightly poetic songs splay out the intimacies and contradictions of her raw emotions.
Tiffany Majette wanted to be an astronaut; instead, she turned to music. As Orion Sun, she writes songs that hover and drift along, tenderly excavating past traumas and recent relationships. The 24-year-old singer and producer has orbited the Philadelphia R&B scene in recent years, opening performances by neo-soul crooner Daniel Caesar and eclectic rapper Tierra Whack. A 2017 mixtape, A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams, floated between outer-space imagery and drum-heavy introspection. On her debut album, Hold Space for Me, she unfurls her personal history, singing about learning to fall in love while grieving and about losing her childhood home. She describes her writing process as tapping into a kind of “darkness,” but there’s an airiness to her glistening jazz samples, quasi-trap beats, and tossed-off raps about Kanye.
The sparse production relies on Orion Sun’s voice to carry the emotional weight of each track. She’s most successful when she’s stark, frank, and lightly poetic: “I pray to God, wherever he resides/If loving her’s alright,” she sings in a soft, undulating voice on “Trying,” a glimmering ballad about a queer relationship. Her simplicity doesn’t always achieve its goal; after 10 repetitions of “it feels so good to know you,” you’re numbed to the romance of the words. The album wants to soothe, but its meandering vocals and slow, weary chords start to feel like a drain.
So when Orion Sun suddenly bursts out with a rap, it’s a welcome change of pace. Her occasional verses are fun, though sort of corny: “I feel like A$AP Rocky, bitches on my jockey, all up in my face, hockey,” she raps on “El Camino.” On “Golden Hour,” she finds a staccato, sing-song flow, and while the lyrics are never as strong as her more straightforward ballads, the twinkling synth and shimmering production effects complement her delivery. Towards of the end of the song, she sighs, layered vocals reverberating as she revels in her new-found success. “They’re fucking with me now,” she murmurs, genuinely shocked.
At times the album feels ill-equipped to handle the capital-E Emotions, performing metaphors so theatrical they invoke cliche. “Grim Reaper,” a song about a friend’s death (“Where do you go/When your soul leaves the physical?”), fades into the chirp of a disconnected phone line; the song ends with a fuzzy, shoveling sound, like someone scraping through dirt. At other points, she turns to underwhelmed interjections, like the “Oh shit” and “What the fuck’s going on?” of the opener. Each song builds a small space for raw emotions, splaying out their intimacies and contradictions. But once the feelings pass, they default to easy takeaways—love is cozy, death is sad, time is fleeting—and palatable chords.
On the album’s best track, “Coffee for Dinner,” Orion Sun interpolates The Weeknd, lilting a G-rated take on the Canadian superstar’s clammy sex chronicle “Often.” With vivid imagery and yearning vocals, she carves a space for herself out of the up-ended song, responding to the hedonism of the original with a gentleness that anchors the record. Her songs search for a smoothness that feels like safety, always taking a breath before unfolding.
Buy: Rough Trade
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