The singer, an off-the-grid farmer hailing from Farmville, Virginia, named Oliver Anthony, has erupted into the music universe with his politically potent song, “Rich Men North of Richmond.” Raw and unfiltered, this track has not only gone viral, amassing over 9.5 million views on YouTube, but it’s also climbed to No. 1 on the iTunes Country chart, while 17 of his other songs are ruling the top 40. Overnight success like that is nothing short of incredible.
But what’s funny is the way elite right-wing conservatives have latched onto this blue-collar anthem. A song that speaks against the wealthy’s control and avarice has somehow become a beacon for the very individuals it seems to be critiquing.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, Ken Cuccinelli, and other elite conservative figures have embraced the song, attempting to frame it within their political narrative. This, despite Anthony stating his politics are dead center.
On Friday, U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for her hard-right stance, expressed her support on Twitter.
The dissonance is palpable. The attempt to claim an off-the-grid farmer’s lament as an elite conservative rallying cry is not just laughable; it’s almost a parody in itself.
The song’s climb to No. 1 on the iTunes Country chart and extensive write-ups on Billboard.com and RollingStone.com have solidified Anthony’s place in the musical landscape. Yet, it’s worth looking beyond the statistics and acclaim to understand why this song resonates so deeply.
Anthony’s lyrics are expressing the pain and frustration of those working tirelessly without making ends meet:
“I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day / Overtime hours for bulls*** pay … It’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to / For people like me and people like you / Wish I could just wake up and it not be true, But it is, oh, it is …These rich men north of Richmond / Lord knows they all just wanna have total control.”
We want to mention that he does harken back to Reagan talking points about criticizing welfare and obesity in the lyrics:
“Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat / And the obese milkin’ welfare / Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.”
Oliver Anthony is in danger of being used and the embrace of Anthony’s song by certain political figures that he seems to be railing against is fascinating. It will be interesting to see where he goes with his new found success.