Thelma Plum’s New Era Is Born With ‘We Don’t Talk About It’
“I wanna warn you but I’m scared/You won’t think it’s true.” The new single from Thelma Plum ‘We Don’t Talk About It’ is a poignant statement on the culture of silence in Australia, ripping open the underbelly of abusive relationships and asking us all to do better.
Every time I hear Thelma sing I get goosebumps. ‘We Don’t Talk About It’ is no different. Thelma has such a captivating power when she sings — especially when she’s singing about deeply personal experiences — that it’s almost like she sings straight into my soul. Perhaps that’s because we’re both from Gamilaraay/Kamilaroi country, or maybe it’s just reflective of how she lets everyone into her music. What I know for sure is that Indigenous people, women especially, know the pain behind those vocals.
‘We Don’t Talk About It’ explores Thelma’s past relationship, which carries the all-too-familiar hallmarks of emotional abuse. “Did he take you to meet his friends?/Or gaslight you?/Make jokes at your expense?” The chorus is where Thelma delivers her sucker-punch: “If it happened to me it’ll happen to her/What the girls went through they didn’t deserve it”.
No stranger to calling out Australian culture and men, Thelma has always found a way to speak up about topics others deem taboo. Racism, sexism, abusive relationships, no topic is off limits for Thelma Plum. Her award-winning debut album, Better In Blak, features countless songs that critique the world around her. On ‘Woke Blokes’, Thelma calls out the toxicity of many Australian men who only support women when it’s convenient to them — or if the perpetrator isn’t a friend of theirs. On ‘Homecoming Queen’, Thelma expresses how white beauty standards altered the perception of herself and her body (“I remember looking at magazines/And never saw anyone quite like me”). On the album’s title track, Thelma detailed the racism she received from being in the Australian public eye (“If I had lighter skin, maybe I would win”). Every time Thelma sings, no matter how angelic she sounds, those lyrics hit.
Thelma Plum is undeniably one of the most important artists in Australia right now. People were captivated by her ethereal vocals with gut-wrenching lyrics on her debut album, Better In Blak, which won an ARIA award in 2019 and Album of the Year at the Queensland Music Awards in 2020. She then released her EP Meanjin with stellar songs like ‘Backseat of My Mind’ and the gorgeous love letter to Brisbane ‘Brown Snake’, winning Album of the Year at the National Indigenous Music Awards this year. As for me, I’ve loved her ever since her 2013 EP, Rosie — I can’t believe it’s been 10 years of watching Thelma Plum carve out her rightful place amongst the greats in Australian music.
‘We Don’t Talk About It’ was given the global premiere it deserves on Zane Lowe’s Apple Music 1 show — an incredible testament to Thelma’s rise in music. It’s our first taste of her new era. If the new work is even half as good as ‘We Don’t Talk About It’, Thelma is going to have a real stellar year.
Oh and side-note: the accompanying music video is equally as beautiful as the song. It was shot in East London and directed by Sarah Dattani Tucker — check it out below.
Thelma Plum’s new song ‘We Don’t Talk About It’ is out now.
Image: Georgia Wallace