Hold Space for Me, the debut album from Orion Sun, neé Tiffany Majette, is an accomplished blend of soul and R&B, with a little hip-hop thrown in as well. Majette, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, builds her songs around her singing voice, which is quiet and clear. She tends to create low-key but strong melodies, making her songs a compelling listen that usually don’t go for the big pop hook.
There’s a sense of intimacy about the album as well. Some of that comes from Majette’s tendency towards sparse instrumentation, but her confessional, personal lyrics also draw in the listener. The album’s opener, “Lightning”, is a good example. The song begins with quiet synth hits and scattered beats before Majette comes in singing, “Lightning / Struck the house we used to live in / It ain’t a home no more.” That’s a bracing way to start an album, no matter how smoothly it’s delivered. The arrangement fills out as the song continues, adding more sounds while keeping the beat very simple and basic. Majette’s sense of dislocation comes through on the refrain, “What’s going on?” The song then eases off, dissipating after one more, almost-whispered “What the fuck’s going on?”
The crooned “Grim Reaper” opens with its chorus, which is also its main idea. “Where do you go / When your soul leaves the physical?” Majette reflects on her current situation, “Might get my mom a house / Just to show her that it’s real / Money comin’ in,” but returns to that idea of the afterlife. “I know you’re not around / But I can feel you still.” Electric piano chords suffuse the song with warmth, and a skittering hip-hop beat drops in and out throughout the track. Majette also shows off her crooning in the appropriately named ballad, “Smooth”. A simple guitar riff and a laid-back beat support the relaxing, romantic vibe of the song. Some deliciously arranged high backing vocals coast over the second half of the song, making a lovely song even prettier.
Hold Space for Me also shows off Majette’s rapping ability. “El Camino” is a relaxed hip-hop track with a refrain about vacationing in Puerto Rico and an appropriately laid-back island vibe. Majette gets off a couple of strong lines despite the vibe, with “Money make you go from College Dropout to Yandhi” and “Feel like Serena, but my Venus is in Pisces.” “Sailing” is one of the more complicated songs on the album, starting as a sung track lamenting being able to hear everything the neighbors are shouting about through the walls. Then we hear some muffled shouting as the music slows to a crawl and eventually stops, then starts back up with a stronger beat. Majette raps the entire center section of the song over a fat R&B bassline, but eventually, it drifts its way back to the opening lyrics. It’s as if Majette went into her fantasies to block out the noise and came back to reality.
The single “Coffee for Dinner” is the emotional crux of the album, taking place in the struggling period after Majette lost her house. She sings about working two jobs and sleeping on couches but feeling grateful for the support she got from her friend. “Hope you remember / That late night in winter / You saw a winner / When I felt like a loser / Coffee for dinner / Kept me warm in the cold.” This song has a little more tension to it, with subtle guitar giving the track a bit of an edge missing from most of Orion Sun’s songs.
Hold Space for Me is a confident debut record that shows Orion Sun is very much in control of what she wants to do. She seems to know that her voice is her great strength right now, and she lets it stay front and center through the whole album. The music is mostly quiet and serves to support her voice, but it’s not static or boring. Enough is going on musically that Majette isn’t stranding herself with just her voice unless she very specifically wants that to happen. This is an interesting blend of vocal performance, R&B, and a little hip-hop, and it’s worth checking out.