Thelma Plum ‘Better In Blak’: A Review

Melbourne singer-songwriter, Thelma Plum is back after seven years from first entering our speakers with ‘Better In Blak’.

‘Better In Blak’ is Plum’s latest album devoted to finding strength in her Aboriginal heritage while uncovering the strength and wisdom acquired through the turbulence of life.

Plum hopes the album will connect and inspire young Aboriginal women across the nation.

“I’m singing a lot about being an Aboriginal woman in this country and what it looks like growing up and what it feels like,” Plum told National Aboriginal Times.

Opening the album, ‘Clumsy Love’ co-written and produced with Alexander Burnett is about reprimanding a delinquent partner. A form of cathartic pop, as Plum writes from a difficult spear in her life allowing the song to become “total therapy”. Still maintaining folk-centric style with polished hooks and chirpy melodies.

‘Don’t Let A Good Girl Down’ is compiled with a rich bass guitar plucking away, filling the spaces with its ‘to-the-point’ clicks. A quirky pop-tune that fits Plum’s more resonant vocals, singing “but others who stay quiet, don’t get what they deserve”.

Gang of Youths frontman, Dave Le’aupepe duets on the ballad, ‘Love and War’ highlighting the mistreatment of incarcerated Aboriginal youths. Something about the heavy acoustics at the start echoes through your soul. The simple, repetitive lyrics just tell thousands of words in themselves. Richer tones are brought out in Plum’s lingering voice as she sings, “there’s writing on the walls but they can’t read it”. Le’aupepe vocals add another layer of depth as the slapsticks hit hard in the background.

Pre-released as a single, ‘Not Angry Anymore’ is about forgiveness to an extent, or perhaps letting go of the past. Also, a rather optimistic and bountiful track about self-acceptance of imperfection. The sparkling 80s synth at the end is like that ‘release’ when you can finally let go of the pain that was holding you down and can finally feel free.

‘Homecoming Queen’ takes a more slower turn, kind of like an acoustic lullaby or slow-dance tune. A song about trying to fit in and belong as a young Aboriginal woman and learning to love every aspect of yourself, as Plums sings, “forget all the s*** that you’ve seen, put on the crown”. This is somewhat reassuring to other young females growing up, as Plum reassures us to, “put on that crown”.

‘Better In Blak’ is dedicated to Plum’s experiences over the last few years where people have told her, “it’s not about colour” when it’s an important part of who she is. Taking confidence in owning her heritage, “I look better in blak”. Plum’s purposeful use of ‘blak’ is an perhaps an expression of taking back power and control within a society that fails to encourage opportunities of self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

‘Woke Blokes’ is where Plum proceeds into popular culture and the term ‘woke’, a word that tends to be thrown around carelessly. Commenting on the macho-type Australian culture alongside clicks and a searing ‘anglo-church’ sounding synth contrasts with Plum singing, “you’re not like me”. The simple chord progression throughout makes you really ponder the lyrics. ‘Nick Cave’ follows on from where ‘Woke Blokes’ left off but hits you with a more classic folk vibe pushed forward with dominant acoustics.

A more personal track off the album, ‘Thulumaay Gii’ is a track that speaks of the relationships with her family. Thulumaay Gii means thunder and heart in Gamilaraay language and is also Plum’s middle name. The complimentary instrumental adds to the essence of the track with the thunderous percussion woven into the more melodious heartfelt acoustics and subtle claps.

‘Ugly’ is another track many young females can tap into, as Plum gives a voice to so many young females, speaking the words that are often unspoken.

Quite an emotional and raw track, ‘Do You Ever Get So Sad You Can’t Breathe’ is a track where you can hear the pain and trauma echoing in her voice. The trembling vibrato resonates an angelic nature alongside the subtle acoustics just makes the track that even more personal. Something about this track is so eery yet so delicately beautiful, lingering well beyond Plum’s final words, “I’ll give it right back to you”.

Finally, ‘Made For You’ is a more wholesome production with a diversification of sound, presented through the piano, country-infused acoustics and sweeping percussions.

Go jump into the ‘Better In Blak’ album HERE.

Check out her Triple J Like A Version live performance of ‘Better In Blak’ below.





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