Call-out of racism wins Australia’s richest music prize
"Do you know what it feels like?
'Cause I know what it feels like
If I had lighter skin, maybe I would win
Does it make you want to think?"
Thelma Plum has won Australia's richest music prize, the Vanda and Young Global Songwriting Competition, with her powerful call-out of racism and celebration of Indigenous identity on the indie pop hit Better In Blak.
The Gamilaraay singer-songwriter is the first Indigenous composer to win the $50,000 prize in its 12-year history.
Better In Blak, the title track of her acclaimed debut album, was born out of crippling anxiety and angry frustration as she was relentlessly attacked on social media for calling out racist and anti-social behaviour.
The song transforms trauma into triumph; it has achieved gold status in Australia and elevated Plum as an important voice of her generation.
She thanked her collaborators Alex Burnett and Oli Horton and "everyone who connected to a song that is deeply personal, written when I was feeling very alone."
"I don't feel alone today," she said.
Plum was nominated for almost every music prize on offer with Better In Blak since its release in 2019 but never got to the winner's podium until the Vanda and Young award.
The runner-up for the 2021 prize is the Indigenous triple threat Baker Boy, the hip hop rapper, singer and dancer whose music has been instrumental in introducing his language to a pop audience.
The 2019 Young Australian of the Year was recognised for his song Meditjin, which celebrates music as "medicine", combines Yolgnu Matha and English and features rising rapper JessB.
"It feels really special that my Yolngu Matha lyrics are getting this kind of recognition," Baker Boy said.
Soulful pop singer Ruel came third - from the 2021 "shortlist" of 40 songs - with Painkiller while Triple J favourite Carla Geneve was awarded the Emerging songwriter prize.
The Vanda and Young competition, named after the formidable songwriting duo and The Easybeats pioneers Harry Vanda and the late George Young, has been previously won by Matt Corby, Amy Shark and Megan Washington.
Originally published as Call-out of racism wins Australia's richest music prize