Orion Sun contains multitudes. "I definitely exist in both optimism and nihilism," the Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter, born Tiffany Majette, told MTV News recently during a conversation about her bracing new album Hold Space for Me. Even the word "bracing" at first feels at odds with this silken collection of moony R&B-pop. But as she looks skyward for romantic metaphors — "You move me like a moonbeam," she sings on "Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don't Leave Me)" — Majette gathers a storm, unspooling her own history losing her home and the death of a close friend.
"I understand a nihilist perspective, but I'm able to understand it and then turn it into an optimistic perspective," she said. "I do feel like I'm an optimistic person. I mean, kind of have to be to decide to keep going and to have this sort of tenacity that I don't know where it comes from."
It might come from the stars. As her moniker suggests, Majette has long taken inspiration from space pioneers like Mae Jemison and even wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. Her music as Orion Sun often evokes the planetary pull also found in love. "Swear you came down like a comet," she offers one minute, then moves on to burning desire a tune later: "Holy, warm like the sun be." She packs Hold Space for Me with simple images of the natural world — songs called "Lightning" and "Golden Hour" — alongside the immense weight of human consequence. She's looking up, but she's still bound by gravity.
Majette titles one wiggly groove "Grim Reaper" and finds an earthen delivery, quaking a message to someone gone before their time: "If I had it my way, I'd take your place." She's an explorer picking through smoldering wreckage, finding the bits that still gleam. Sometimes this is literal. Her "Coffee for Dinner" video, in which she gets a creative director credit, finds her playing a Twilight Zone-inspired lone wanderer in a space suit. In an era when album launches feel increasingly like cold data delivery, Orion Sun is thinking cinematically.
"A lot of the music that I make is very visual. It stems from a place in my brain where I'm like, OK, what does this feeling look like sonically? What color is it?" she said. "What do I hear when I'm looking at something, like an old picture, or [when I'm] YouTubing travel videos, those 4K videos, walking back through Japan or just places that I want to go? And I'm just looking at people, like, what are they listening to when they make something?"
Hold Space for Me is unmistakably insular, unwittingly perfect for our current collective moment of self-isolation. "I'm not even going to lie: I'm not doing anything too different than before with this whole sort of staying inside thing," Majette said. Her indoor music longs to know more than what a window offers. The album finds Marjette aching for the comfort of another voice and a whiff of the nighttime air. That's why one of its most memorable moments comes when she suits up to spit a few bars.
"I feel like A$AP Rocky, bitches on my jockey," she smirks, joyriding on "El Camino." Soon after, she shouts out one of her inspirations in all but name: "Money make you go from College Dropout to Yandhi." Marjette has cited Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak as a key influence, plus The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In this age of daily livestream performances, she wishes she could see Billie Holiday on Instagram Live. "Maybe it's because I just read her book and I'm just very obsessed at the moment," she said.
Last month, before everyone had to be inside all the time, Marjette was posting dreamy musical dispatches from her bedroom floor; she's since shared two more. She writes a lot on guitar, though she's self-taught on piano and ukulele as well. She makes beats. In the past, Majette has been so pumped to share a recently completed song that she'd post them right away. Her previous project, A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams, was exactly that. Hold Space for Me, however, was meant to feel more intentional.
"I sat with each [song] and really just marinated and wasn't so quick to be like, this is it, this is done," she said. "Really just wanted to make sure and see that each song felt complete to me. And I like that patience that I gained, because I really do think it's made a difference."
It's the patience to trace her own history on "Golden Hour" in a quick cadence — "I left home, no money coming in / Had to get a job, music wasn't getting spins" — and then pull away to let the gravity of her story linger over a subdued beat reminiscent of leaky pipes. She views the vulnerability inherent in poetry, her "first love in the arts world," as a key tool to use in songwriting. Still, she knows better than to share too much of herself in her music, even as she's spinning a story ripped directly from her own life.
"It's pretty fun to find ways to sort of get my message across but still feel protected and not too exposed," she said. "But I'm like that outside of my artist bag. I'm very cautious."
Cautiously optimistic, then, feels right for Hold Space for Me, an album that fittingly concludes with Marjette sleeping late, frustrating the birds outside her window, but ultimately waking with clear eyes and a vision of warmth. "I found my destiny," she intones, "and it's holding onto your heart."
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