Thanks to only guitar and vocals, and lyrics that have commanded the attention of the both the right and left politically, Anthony Oliver Music’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” soars in at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (dated Aug. 29).
How do the song’s characteristics compare to those of other hits that have topped the Hot 100 this year?
Here is a comparison of the nine songs that have notched their first weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 2023, including “Richmond,” noting both key commonalities and – more so – differences between the first eight No. 1s and the latest leader.
Most similarities and variances apply to all Hot 100 top 10s, not just No. 1s, this year, as well.
First, here are this year’s Hot 100 No. 1s, listed chronologically, per their first weeks atop the chart:
“Flowers,” Miley Cyrus
“Die for You,” The Weeknd & Ariana Grande
“Last Night,” Morgan Wallen
“Like Crazy,” Jimin
“Kill Bill,” SZA
“Vampire,” Olivia Rodrigo
“Seven,” Jung Kook feat. Latto
“Try That in a Small Town,” Jason Aldean
“Rich Men North of Richmond,” Oliver Anthony Music
Commonalities Between “Rich Men North of Richmond” and the Other 2023 Hot 100 No. 1s:
“Richmond,” at a brisk 118 beats per minute, is in line with the average tempo of a 2023 Hot 100 No. 1 song: 106 BPM. Of this year’s No. 1s, 67% are over 100 BPM.
Its short run time – 3:05 – fits with that of other No. 1s this year. It’s just four seconds shorter than the 3:09-length average among leaders.
The song has a familiar and easy-to-follow song structure: Verse – pre-chorus – chorus – turnaround – verse – pre-chorus – chorus – outro.
The first chorus in “Richmond” hits 32 seconds into the song, only eight seconds earlier than the average No. 1.
The song’s title appears in the chorus, where the listener commonly expects to find it. The titles of all but two No. 1s this year are heard in the chorus – Jimin and SZA don’t sing the lyrics “like crazy” or “kill Bill,” respectively, in those songs at all.
Differences Between “Rich Men North of Richmond” and the Other 2023 Hot 100 No. 1s:
“Richmond” is the only Hot 100 No. 1 of 2023 credited to a single writer, Oliver Anthony (real name Christopher Anthony Lunsford). Over the past decade, such leaders have been rare, although two reigned last year: Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” (written by frontman Dave Bayley) and the Encanto ensemble hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (Lin-Manuel Miranda).
“Richmond” sports raw, old-school, demo-like production, including clipping and background noise. While this notably contrasts with the more polished production of the other No. 1s, it provides an organic quality that bolsters the song’s emotional connection, along with Anthony’s emotive, passionate vocal performance.
It’s the only No. 1 this year to possess country-folk, singer-songwriter and Americana influences.
Controversial, political and lifestyle-themed lyrics are central to “Richmond.” “Try That in a Small Town” is the only other 2023 No. 1 that’s similar in that sense. The majority of the other leaders feature a tried-and-true love/relationships theme.
“Richmond” goes against the grain of short song titles. Over the past decade, only 6% of No. 1s have featured five or more words in their titles. However, this is a clever title, with the rhyming quality of “rich men” and “Richmond,” helping it to connect easily and be remembered.
It’s the only No. 1 this year that features only one instrument in the mix. And while acoustic guitar is featured in roughly half of 2023’s leaders, including the three country No. 1s (“Richmond,” “Last Night” and “Small Town”), it’s the only song that uses a resonator guitar (identified by its big metallic plate), which adds to its organic allure.
“Richmond” is the only No. 1 of 2023 that kicks off with a verse as opposed to an intro. However, the benefit is that it immediately grabs listeners’ attention and hooks them in with its striking opening lyrics (“I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day …”) Additionally, over the last decade only 5% of top 10s opened with a verse; in 2023, just one other song has: PinkPantheress and Ice Spice’s “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2.”
Plus, “Richmond” is the lone No. 1 this year that doesn’t include a “D” (departure) section in its framework, such as a bridge or a bridge surrogate section. A common core form of hit songs is: Verse – chorus – verse – chorus – D section – chorus, with the bridge being the post popular “D” section type.
David and Yael Penn are the co-founders of Hit Songs Deconstructed. In 2022, Hit Songs Deconstructed and fellow song analysis platform MyPart partnered to launch ChartCipher, a new platform analyzing hit songs, as defined by Billboard’s charts.