Even if this whole folk-country genre isn’t your jam, this song has been pretty unavoidable, right?
Rich Men North of Richmond is entering its second week at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. It’s racked up 46 million views in just two weeks on YouTube. It’s a bona fide hit that’s come out of nowhere.
Part of that success is the conservative bump. Pundits immediately grabbed onto the song as an “anti-woke” anthem, with its lines that sound familiar to their listeners, like “it’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to” and complaints about “the obese milkin’ welfare” and being “taxed to no end.” In case you haven’t heard it yet…
Due to assumptions made about the politics of the song, it was played during the first Republican Presidential Debate last week. That prompted singer Oliver Anthony to express his annoyance in a video over the weekend. Why? As far as he’s concerned the song is NOT conservative. He lamented amid the song’s wholly unexpected success:
“The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up into this. It’s aggravating seeing people in conservative news try to identify with me like I’m one of them. It’s aggravating seeing certain musicians and politicians act like we’re buddies and act like we’re fighting the same struggle here, like that we’re trying to present the same message.”
One needs but to listen a little closer to the lyrics, about “workin’ all day overtime hours for bulls**t pay” to see the difference between him and the rich pundits and pols celebrating the track. Though we guess enough rich people over the years have been pretending to be men of the people or heroes of the working class that we can understand how they’d get confused.
But Oliver doesn’t want the song to be thought of as political, at least not a part of the world of politics as it stands. He says it’s about the complaints real people have about politicians — and that DEFINITELY includes all these politicians in the GOP! On seeing his song played at the debate, he mused:
“It was funny seeing my song at the presidential debate. ‘Cause it’s like, I wrote that song about those people. So for them to have to sit there and listen to that, that cracks me up.”
Apparently the lack of self-awareness meant they had no idea they were even being lambasted by the lyrics.
The song isn’t liberal either, obviously — he mentioned seeing pundits on the left “trying to discredit” him, “I guess in retaliation” to the conservative embrace. But he wanted to make clear it wasn’t a commentary on Joe Biden‘s presidency or any other damn thing these conservatives are trying to say:
“That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden, you know? It’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song is written about the people on that stage, and a lot more too. Not just them, but definitely them.”
Ha! As to his actual politics, he says he doesn’t support either side, and it’s more complicated than left or right:
“It’s hard to get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change but I do hate to see that song being weaponized.”
Seems to us that from the song he’s singing about people struggling while rich folks in Washington, DC are enriching themselves at their expense. And that is something everyone should be able to get behind. We also think it’s pretty funny Republicans assumed it wouldn’t be about them — as if their fearless leader Donald Trump isn’t the epitome of everything wrong with politics. As if he wasn’t born rich and didn’t use politics to enrich himself and his family, never even attempting to help the American people along the way.
Well, anyway. Like the song or not, you have to respect the integrity of the singer — who is taking that conservative bump and telling those pols and pundits to shove it.
You can see Oliver’s full remarks about the 2:10 mark (below):
[Image via Oliver Anthony/WGN News/YouTube.]