Wednesday, August 23, 2023

How America’s right turned “Rich Men North of Richmond” into a hit

The Economist, Aug 23rd 2023 - He sports a red beard fit for a Viking, prays before he performs and strums his guitar with his three hounds slumped by his boots. Oliver Anthony is an unlikely star. And yet his song, “Rich Men North of Richmond”, released on August 11th, is crowning the charts, having racked up more than 34m streams on YouTube. He is the first musician to debut in the number-one slot on the Billboard Hot 100 without having had another song in the charts before. How did an unsigned, unknown artist become the minstrel of the moment?

The song’s substance helps explain its success. With the nostalgic twang of Appalachian folk, the bearded bard is singing of Americans’ struggles. When Mr Anthony laments “your dollar ain’t shit/And it’s taxed to no end” and repeats the chorus (“It’s a damn shame/What the world’s gotten to/For people like me/And people like you”), he is speaking directly to the anger millions of listeners feel, as they struggle with inflation, high living costs and disillusionment with Washington. (Read more)


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