From open mic nights to clubs, to then headlining theatres and major festivals across New Zealand, Tami Neilson has now won almost every music award possible. 2022 now brings Tami’s 5th album, Kingmaker.
Recorded at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios, Kingmaker was born of the pandemic. A moment when women were struggling. Frontline workers fighting for human lives. Essential services providers. Disproportionately affected by furlough: a “she-cession,” analysts termed it. Women put their dreams and careers on hold to care for their families and homeschool children. They mobilised online to bring awareness to domestic abuse and systemic inequalities. They marched in the streets for the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the remains of more than 1,700 indigenous children found in mass graves of former residential schools in Canada.
The songs of Kingmaker exposes industry systems, exploding patriarchal structures of the industry, society, and family. These are not new themes for Tami – both her 2018 album Sassafrass! and 2020 Chickaboom! called attention to misogyny and patriarchal structures. But Kingmaker draws out this out theme further. In the opening, title track, Tami calls out the men that control the industry and create “kings” of its male artists. But the song flips the script: with the cinematic flair of a Bond film, Tami puts women in the seat of power. Speaking for a collective of kingmakers, speaking sharply, speaking with irritation, she challenges what bell hooks (Talking Back) terms the politics of domination that render women nameless and voiceless in the industry. This is not a breakdown or a collapse. This is a revolt.