Unknown Singer's Song Becomes Conservative Anthem

Oliver Anthony's 'Rich Men North of Richmond' praised on the right in particular
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2023 11:31 AM CDT
Updated Aug 19, 2023 12:00 PM CDT

Days after the release of his first professionally recorded song, a relatively unknown country artist and aspiring off-grid farmer from Farmville, Virginia, has suddenly found himself with an audience of millions. It's the kind of success artists like Oliver Anthony only dream of. In the days before the release of "Rich Men North of Richmond," Anthony spoke of his hope that "at least a few" people might take notice. Yet with the support of conservatives including Marjorie Taylor Greene, the passionately sung song blasting "the obese milkin' welfare" and politicians who only seem interested in protecting minors "on an island somewhere" has risen to the top of the iTunes country chart—but also spurred critics. Here's what to know:

  • Lyrics: With Anthony singing of endless taxes, "bull--- pay," and "these rich men north of Richmond" eying "total control," the song is "a soulful expression of working-class frustrations," per NBC News.
  • Inspiration: "People are just sick and tired of being sick and tired," Anthony says in an introductory YouTube video. "So yeah, I want to be a voice for those people."
  • Wish granted: The simple video for the song has been viewed 12 million times on YouTube in just six days. "And just like that you became the voice of 40 or 50 million working men," reads one comment with 11,000 likes, per NBC.
  • Right-wing fans: GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says the song is "the anthem of the forgotten Americans who truly support this nation." Kari Lake, the former GOP candidate for Arizona governor, says the "true" song gives her "chills." And conservative commenter Matt Walsh describes it as "the protest song of our generation."

  • Criticism: Many onlookers agree Anthony is a good and passionate singer. But AV Club's Emma Keates worries about a deeper meaning to the song title. It could refer to the politicians of Washington, DC. But as "Richmond was also the capital and northernmost city in the Confederacy," it might instead refer to "everyone in the North, which obviously paints a far grimmer picture."
  • That line on obesity: Others say the song "perpetuates fatphobia and the classic 'welfare queen' trope" and "blames the poor for 'milkin' the system," per the Independent. At one point, Anthony sings, "Well, God, if you're 5-foot-3 and you're 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds."
  • Anthony's politics: Despite his fans largely falling on the right, Anthony describes himself as "pretty dead center down the aisle on politics" in his introduction video. He adds "both sides serve the same master, and that master is not someone of any good to the people of this country."
(More country music stories.)

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