The first Republican debate on Wednesday night (Aug. 23) kicked off with a question about this week’s Billboard Hot 100 chart topper, Oliver Anthony Music’s “Rich Men North of Richmond.”
“As we sit here tonight, the No. 1 song on the Billboard chart is called ‘Rich Men North of Richmond.’ It is by a singer from Farmville, Virginia, named Oliver Anthony. His lyrics speak of alienation, a deep frustration with the state of government and of this country,” co-moderator Martha MacCallum said to the candidates. “Washington D.C. is about 100 miles north of Richmond,” she continued. “Why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?”
On Friday (Aug. 25), Anthony himself took to YouTube to share his thoughts about his whirlwind success, and about how his song has made its way into political discussions. “The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up into this,” the singer said in the 10-minute clip. “It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news trying to identify with me like I’m one of them.”
He continued, “It seems like certain people want to ride the attention of this song to make their own selves relevant, and that’s aggravating as hell. The other thing that I find aggravating is, well, it was funny seeing my song at the presidential debate, because I wrote that song about those people. For them to sit there and listen to that, that cracks me up.”
Anthony explained that “Rich Men” has “nothing to do with Joe Biden, and it’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden,” before doubling down that the songs are written about “those people on that stage” and other politicians.
“I hate to see that song being weaponized,” he added. “That s— has got to stop.”
Anthony’s breakout viral hit “Rich Men North of Richmond” debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart. Among other chart achievements for the singer-songwriter, he’s the first artist ever to launch atop the list with no prior chart history in any form.
Watch his full video response below.