Thelma Plum has released her highly anticipated debut album Better In Blak. The album arrives seven years after she released her first song Father Said and shot straight onto triple j airwaves. Since then she’s released two EPs and edged her way closer and closer to the album with a handful of singles.
She’s picked the perfect time to strike with Better In Blak. There’s a sense of perspective to her songwriting that has grown over the years. As a result, she’s presented some of her most raw, honest, positive and humorous songwriting ever.
In celebration of that, we’ve picked out our favourite lyrics from Better In Blak.
“It’s kind of icky the lengths that you’d go to bring a good girl down.”
- Don’t Let A Good Girl Down
Don’t Let A Good Girl Down captures the spirit of this album perfectly. It’s about rising above the toxic people around you and this line is aimed at particularly problematic people.
“They can lock you in the dark ‘cos you’re young and you’re broke but kid you’ve got heart.”
- Love And War
Love And War was inspired by the Four Corners documentary which unveiled the atrocities going on in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory. The morning after it aired Plum and Dave Le’aupepe penned this powerful cut that acknowledges the heartache but ultimately powers forward with a potent fight spirit. This line encapsulates the injustice but also encourages to keep rising.
“I’m not angry anymore.”
- Not Angry Anymore
It may seem like a cop-out to use the titular line in a feature like this but it’s an important one in the context of the album. Plum revealed when the album was announced that it was a “cathartic” process and this line defines that. Many of these experiences come from a dark period but turning them into art has helped her find positivity in the power of moving forward.
“When I was a teenager, awkward body hair and big derriere...I am a woman now I feel beautiful and I love myself.”
- Homecoming Queen
Representation of Indigenous Australians in mainstream media is still not where it should be but artists like Plum, Briggs and Jessica Mauboy are doing an excellent job of increasing visibility. Homecoming Queen powerfully details the experience of Plum not having anybody that looked like her on television or the magazines while she was growing up. Homecoming Queen is ultimately an anthem of self-love - one that embraces differences and celebrates individuality.
“In 1967 I wasn’t human, and in 1994 I was born.”
- Homecoming Queen
You can take this line literally - Plum wasn’t born in 1967 and she was in 1994 - but it runs deeper than that. As she explained to Pilerats, “Aboriginal people were not recognised as human beings, they were recognised as flora and fauna.” There are people on earth right now, like Plum’s father, that have lived through that experience unrightfully forced upon.
“You took the colour from me but I look better in black.”
- Better In Blak
Once again, Plum rises above. As a bravely outspoken artist, Plum has faced criticism that has often had racist and sexist foundations. Better In Blak is Plum owning her identity once again after a terrible period where, as she told The Guardian, she wanted to be “invisible”. There’s nothing invisible about this record.
“He’s like, kill the boy down the road who hurt the girl real bad unless he is my friend or plays in my favourite band.”
- Woke Blokes
You could literally quote any line from Woke Blokes. It’s simultaneously the most humorous and vivid song on the album. There’s going to be plenty of guys looking at themselves after hearing this or maybe not depending on how woke they think they are.
“I went on your Facebook to see if you’re single and accidentally liked something from 400 weeks ago... I’m so embarrassed.”
- Nick Cave
Nick Cave is a break-up song of sorts, detailing the period after the relationship when there’s still feelings but one person has moved on with another. It’s a heartfelt cut but this line is one of the most lighthearted. There’s not one person who has been in a relationship and has Facebook that hasn’t experienced this.
“She’s my mother, only daughter, we were better off without you.”
- Thulumaay Gii
Plum speaks a lot about identity but it’s rare to hear her go into family specifics. Driven by an affecting guitar line, Thulumaay Gii turns that stone with stark honesty.
“With a face like that, it’s easy to hide that you’re so ugly on the inside.”
The ugliest people in the world aren’t the ones who you think are ugly on the outside, just sayin’.
“I woke up this morning and never felt so new.”
- Made For You
This album is so heavy at points but Plum leaves us on this beautifully positive note. It presents as a love song but it’s also an important step for Plum is turning a new leaf, putting bad relationships in the past.