Country-folk singer Oliver Anthony is denouncing politicians, namely conservatives, and those trying to make his hit song “Rich Men North of Richmond” the new right-wing anthem.
In a 10-minute video shared on YouTube on Friday, the musician said, “The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up in this. I’m disappointed to see [it]. Like, it’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me, like I’m one of them.”
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Anthony’s comments come after the GOP’s first debate of the primary season in Milwaukee on Wednesday. A clip of the song was played at the beginning of the debate and moderator Martha MacCallum also referenced the song in the first questions, asking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, “Why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?” In his response, DeSantis took aim at President Joe Biden, Congress and government spending while addressing the song.
In the video, the singer said, “It was funny seeing my song at that presidential debate. Because I wrote that song about those people, you know, so for them to have to sit there and listen to that, that cracks me up. It was funny kind of seeing the response to it.”
He continued, “That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden. You know, it’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song’s written about the people on that stage and a lot more too, not just them, but definitely them.”
Earlier this week, Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” topped the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first song by an artist with no previous chart history to open at No. 1. Following the song’s release earlier in August, many Republicans have praised the track for its lyrics critiquing big government. But some liberals have also criticized the song, saying some lyrics promote negative stereotypes of welfare recipients.
The artist said it has been difficult trying to “get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change. But I do hate to see that song being weaponized, like I see. I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own. And I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That shit’s gotta stop.”
Later in the video, Anthony said he also needed to “address the left” because “they’re sending a message out that … ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ is an attack against the poor. If you listen to my other music, it’s obvious that all of my songs that reference class defend the poor.”
He added, “I do understand there may be some people who misunderstood my words in ‘Rich Men North of Richmond.’ But I’ve got to be clear that my message, like with any of my songs, it references the inefficiencies of the government because of the politicians within it that are engulfed in bribes and extortion.”
Though he’s excited about the song’s global success, the singer added that the people he’s seen responding to the song are “not conservative people” or “even necessarily Americans.”
“I don’t know that I’ve seen anything get such a positive response from such a diverse group of people, and I think that terrifies the people that I sing about in that song,” he said. “They’ve done everything they can in the last two weeks to make me look like a fool, to spin my words, to try to stick me in a political bucket. And they can keep trying, but I’m just gonna keep on writing.”
And while he doesn’t know what’s next for his music career, Anthony noted that he’s “going to stay true to my word. I’m going to write, produce and distribute authentic music that represents people and not politics.”
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