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Controversial Country Song Rich Men North of Richmond Makes US Chart History

Oliver Anthony’s Rich Men North of Richmond, the out-of-nowhere country song that went viral earlier this month, has debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making him the first artist to ever notch a top single with no prior chart history in any form.

The song, which Anthony says is the first he ever recorded with a professional microphone, was widely shared online along with a video of bearded, Virginia-based singer playing an acoustic guitar in the woods. The song was streamed 17.5m times during the week ending 17 August, and a video of Anthony’s performance posted by the channel RadioWV has racked up 30 million views in 12 days.

The conservative-leaning hit has drawn backlash for its anti-taxes sentiment and for invoking the stereotype of the “welfare queen”. (“Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat/ And the obese milkin’ welfare,” he sings in the second verse. “Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of Fudge Rounds.”) The song is part classic folk-country working man’s anthem (“I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay”) and part conservative mantra (“’cause your dollar ain’t shit, and it’s taxed to no end”), and part grievance (“young men are putting themselves six feet in the ground / ’cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down”). It also dabbles in conspiracy (“I wish politicians would look out for miners / And not just minors on an island somewhere,” he sings, a reference to many conspiracy theories surrounding the crimes and death of Jeffery Epstein).

Anthony, whose legal name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford, is just the sixth person in Billboard chart history to debut a first solo Hot 100 entry at number 1, following Zayn, Baauer, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia and Clay Aiken. In a statement posted to Facebook after the viral success of Rich Men North of Richmond, Anthony said that he wasn’t rushing into a record deal.

“People in the music industry give me blank stares when I brush off eight million dollar offers. I don’t want six tour buses, 15 tractor trailers and a jet. I don’t want to play stadium shows, I don’t want to be in the spotlight,” he wrote. “I wrote the music I wrote because I was suffering with mental health and depression. These songs have connected with millions of people on such a deep level because they’re being sung by someone feeling the words in the very moment they were being sung. No editing, no agent, no bullshit. Just some idiot and his guitar. The style of music that we should have never gotten away from in the first place.”

The success of Rich Men North of Richmond comes on the heels of viral attention and millions of views trained on Jason Aldean’s Try That in a Small Town, another country song which drew backlash for its right-leaning take on the culture wars. Lyrics for the song took aim at police protesters and seemed to encourage gun violence; after heavy criticism, the music video quietly edited to remove images of Black Lives Matters demonstrations.

Speaking to Billboard after topping the Hot 100, Anthony said: “The hopelessness and frustration of our times resonate in the response to this song. The song itself is not anything special, but the people who have supported it are incredible and deserve to be heard.”

Source : The Guardian



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