The right is feeling ‘Rich Men North of Richmond,’ Oliver Anthony’s viral song. The left is not

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Oliver Anthony says he’s “still in a state of shock” over the viral success of “Rich Men North of Richmond,” a country song that has been dubbed an ode to the working class, but also an “alt-right anthem” that’s “offensive” and “fatphobic.”

“Rich Men North of Richmond has been uploaded to all major streaming platforms and will show up there in a few days,” the Virginia country-folk singer tweeted last week as his admonition about taxes and working “overtime hours for b— pay” picked up steam online.

“Im still in a state of shock at the outpouring of love I’ve seen in the comments, messages and emails. I’m working to respond to everyone as quickly as possible,” he wrote, sharing a video of himself performing the song.


The Farmville, Va., singer — said to be a farmer living off the grid with his three dogs — has quickly racked up 1.9 million streams on Spotify. A video of him performing it that was posted on YouTube by a local indie channel has amassed more than 13 million views in less than a week. The song also hit No. 1 on the all-genre iTunes chart. Anthony’s other songs, “Ain’t Gotta Dollar” and “I’ve Got to Get Sober” have even relegated Jason Aldean’s controversial ballad “Try That in a Small Town” to the No. 4 position on the chart.

As much of Nashville’s music community condemned the track, prominent Republican presidential candidates rushed in to support it.

July 19, 2023

Anthony did not immediately respond Tuesday to The Times’ request for comment.

The musician told Rolling Stone, which branded the country song a new favorite for “right-wing influencers,” that he’s a relatively new songwriter who only began to write in 2021 after he “wasted a lot of nights getting high and getting drunk.” In a YouTube monologue he posted days before releasing “Rich Men,” Anthony described himself as nonpartisan, sitting “pretty dead center down the aisle on politics.”

“I remember as a kid the conservatives wanting war, and me not understanding that. And I remember a lot of the controversies when the left took office, and it seems like, you know, both sides serve the same master. And that master is not someone of any good to the people of this country,” he said.

Richmond’s history as a Confederate capital and Anthony’s reproachful lyrics have influenced listeners’ hot takes on the song and on Anthony himself, categorizing the red-bearded musician as a conservative too. However, it’s no surprise that the song’s arrival on the heels of “Try That in a Small Town” and its displacement of Aldean’s song on the charts further steeps the up-and-coming musician in the brewing culture war and the politicization of country music.

“Livin’ in the new world / With an old soul,” Anthony sings. “These rich men north of Richmond / Lord knows they all just wanna have total control / Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do / And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do / ’Cause your dollar ain’t s— and it’s taxed to no end / ’Cause of rich men north of Richmond.”


Singer Jason Aldean says critics who think his ‘Try That in a Small Town’ is about lynching or race are making ‘meritless ... dangerous’ allegations.

July 18, 2023

Prominent conservative figures, including podcaster Dan Bongino and singer John Rich, have lauded the song, joining the voices of those hailing Anthony as an independent phenomenon. “What is a Woman?” documentarian Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire described “Rich Men North of Richmond” as “the protest song of our generation.”

“The main reason this song resonates with so many people isn’t political. It’s because the song is raw and authentic. We are suffocated by artificiality,” Walsh tweeted, vowing to promote any album Anthony releases on all his platforms.

On Sunday, Anthony performed a free show at Morris Farm Market in Barco, N.C., that reportedly generated enough interest to fill 25 acres with cars. (He was also joined onstage by singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson for a duet of Johnson’s 2008 hit “In Color.”) He has repeatedly taken to social media to marvel at the response to the song.

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July 21, 2023

But the fanfare around his single and its viral ascent is being tempered by detractors calling him out for harboring right-wing attitudes, criticizing his take on the so-called elites and, in more extreme cases, accusing him of being an “industry plant” despite appearing to have no music industry backing.

“I wish politicians would look out for miners / And not just minors on an island somewhere / Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat / And the obese milkin’ welfare,” 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 /
Young men are puttin’ themselves 6 feet in the ground / ’Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down.”

Others took issue with specific lyrics in the song, some of which allude to convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and others that shame people living on welfare.

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Aug. 14, 2023

“This dude Oliver Anthony doesn’t know if he’s mad at the rich men north of Richmond or fat people on welfare. Make up your mind bro,” one user tweeted.

“Nothing says class consciousness like a song where the entire middle verse is about how the poor can’t eat because of obese welfare recipients,” another wrote.

Here are some of the wide-ranging responses: