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Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is flora + fana, the sophomore album from Fana Hues.
The word “timeless” gets thrown around a lot when talking about artists who blend soul, funk and R&B, but for the music of 26-year-old Pasadena singer-songwriter Fana Hues, it’s the most fitting descriptor. Her latest record, flora + fana, is sometimes reminiscent of the moody guitar-backed tracks on Nina Simone Sings The Blues, then of the atmospheric quality of SZA’s Z. At other moments, it evokes the softness in Solange’s A Seat at the Table. flora + fana floats in a liminal space, where genre and decade are hazy.
When asked in an interview for office magazine about how she stands out “in the new age of R&B,” the answer was simple: “I think being myself is enough to set me apart.” Hues explained, “The amount of polar opposite influences I have and openness to curating a creative process that nurtures them makes it so that I'm not in competition with anyone. No one has the exact view as I do.”
That point of view has sharpened since the release of her debut in 2020, Hues, which was a varied breakup album, innovative but uneven. The moniker and album title “Hues” stems from the artist’s family name, Hughes, but also plays on color, and Hues’ purported aim “to capture all the different shades of one idea.” Hues indisputably has range, but got muddied in the process of blending a few too many colors into one project. With her sophomore record, although the subject matter is wider, there is a self-assured synchronicity to all 11 tracks.
Both Hues and flora + fana are self-titled, but Hues told NPR that her sophomore release is her true “formal introduction,” now that more people are listening. Hues’ audience has grown exponentially since her feature on Tyler, The Creator’s CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST; she joined Tyler and Brent Faiyaz on “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE,” which is still one of the most popular tracks from the album (and is Hues’ most streamed track).
Singles from flora + fana soon followed, providing a smooth transition thematically from Hues first with “pieces” (which Hues said was about “a new situationship”), “breakfast” (a breakup song, but an optimistic one, featured in A COLORS SHOW live performance) and, finally, “wild horses” (a hypnotic meditation on freedom).
The opening tracks dwell in darkness and uncertainty, but from then on, Hues is assertive, commanding on “BAD bad” and on “high roller.” Other self-aware standouts include “fall in line,” particularly evocative of A Seat at the Table, and “dayxday.”
The record's closer, just over a minute long, is “wait,” one of the most powerful, concise moments on flora + fana. Layering vocals alone, and showcasing Hues’ ear for beautiful and disconcerting harmonies, she repeats, “If you could wait, only a while, I still need time to mend.” It’s a feat of arrangement and restraint that echoes long after its brief runtime.
Hues told NPR, “I ended the album with ‘wait’ because I wanted to showcase me being patient with myself. Everything that I put out is reminders for me as well. I’m going to fail sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I fail at life or I fail forever. There’s nothing that’s unredeemable for me.” And “wait” is a potent reminder — we can all aspire to pause, for just a moment, and give ourselves time to mend.
Theda Berry is a Brooklyn-based writer and the former Editor of VMP. If she had to be a different kind of berry, she’d pick strawberry.
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