Original songs aren’t a dime a dozen. It may be hard to recreate such a sound from one of American music’s most famous disco diva icons, Thelma Houston. Add into the mix a 28-year-old producer named JANITOR who is deeply embedded in the Los Angeles indie rock scene and you have “fortytwo” — the EP concept and the actual age difference between Houston and JANITOR and an innovative new side-project that challenges the limit of an unlikely collaboration that incorporates both contemporary and vintage sounds.
Thelma Houston is well-known to the world of Disco, R&B and Motown.
One of her most notable singles during that period was “You’ve Been Doing Wrong for So Long” which secured her a Grammy nomination for a Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Houston released her third album Any Way You Like It in 1976. The first single released was her version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ 1975 song “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” In February 1977 the track hit Number 1 in the U.S. on the R&B and Club Play Singles charts and in April 1977 on the Hot 100 Charts. “Don’t Leave Me This Way” won Houston the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the Grammys for 1977.
Most recently she has teamed up with JANITOR, an up-and-coming producer and multi-instrumentalist who has played on hundreds of records as a cellist and bassist for veteran bands. Together they have formed this creative relationship built on respect and friendship.
This Thelma Houston project is a testament to how an unlikely pairing can collaborate as they formed this partnership by creating songs that truly speak about their issues. Keeping an open mind, blending genres, styles, and focusing on the emotional context is what “fortytwo” is about and not necessarily of the mindset if it will sound more like a pop or mainstream or commercially successful music release.
Infusing electronic and R&B and indie pop music, listeners can hear almost every genre in the five-song EP as JANITOR cites his taste in everything from jazz, hip hop to powerpop. Each song is a journey that starts from dark to light — raw, uncensored, thought-provoking lyrics is what JANITOR describes as “Conscious Club” music. They are making music that has a specific idea around it. It’s also the next generation of the Thelma Houston sound.
“Enemy” is the first track from the album and first planned single and instantly draws you in with its minimal production and heavy lyrics. Houston’s stellar vocals and repetitive bass are prominent on this track with lyrics such as “Are you living with the enemy? Is the enemy in your head? Can you be good to yourself? Do you forgive yourself? Can you love yourself?”
Soulful, but yet dark, listeners can instantly understand how personal this EP release comes to life. “Enemy” is an ongoing song with the track clocking in just under six minutes which leaves one wanting more and the song closes with an excerpt of JANITOR’s string section. It was the first song they wrote together.
“Colorblind,” the fourth track from the EP, is about race relations and is meant to be an inspirational piece because it touches upon a controversial subject. JANITOR infuses a pop/punk and goth tone that also elevates during the chorus with positive, uplifting lyrics.
The “fortytwo” EP is now available at most major digital retail stores.