Liner Notes: Oliver Anthony scores a surprise No. 1 with ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’
Stars and Stripes September 2, 2023
Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, Aug. 26, 2023: ‘Rich Men North of Richmond,’ Oliver Anthony
Well, what’s there to say about this? When VH1 throws together episodes of “I love the 2020s!” this song and this guy will most certainly take up a good seven minutes. You can almost hear Michael Ian Black’s jokes about Anthony’s red beard now, right before the show flashes to a clip of the singer, who says something like, “I had no idea it would take off like it did.” Oh, but it took off, Oliver. It most definitely took off.
All political nuances and contexts aside, the song is … well, it’s pretty standard. A guy in the woods with a guitar and a voice that screams more than it sings. It’s not novel and it’s certainly not on the Hot 100 bingo card these days, but it hit a nerve and has become an anthem for the right side of the political aisle regardless of its intention. Some might equate it to the days when folk-leaning protest music mattered in the American mainstream, but really, this is just a guy whining about The Man, his job and taxes on top of a wavering acoustic guitar that nearly loses its way at times throughout the song. It’s probably unfair to doubt Anthony’s sincerity, but it’s also irresponsible to label him the next Woody Guthrie.
The truth might be in the middle, but it also might not be – theories about the guy being an industry and/or political plant are as prevalent as the any debate surrounding what it takes to make America great again. As such, here’s hoping this guy enjoys his time in the spotlight. It was hard to think anything could top Luke Combs’ pedestrian interpretation of “Fast Car” – on both the chart and the cringe level. Turns out, one, Mr. Oliver Anthony knew just the trick.