Advertisement

Oliver Anthony slams politicians co-opting his viral hit: 'I wrote the song about those people'

Country musician Oliver Anthony is still in the honeymoon phase of his unexpected chart success, but he's already divorcing himself from conservative politicians looking to adopt his viral hit "Rich Men North of Richmond" as a right-wing anthem.

The singer-songwriter released a YouTube video Friday in which he condemns political figures for trying to co-opt the song — which shockingly rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this week — as a conservative battle cry.

"The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up into this. I'm disappointed to see [it]. It's aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I'm one of them. It's aggravating seeing certain musicians and politicians act like we're buddies and act like we're fighting the same struggle here, like we're trying to present the same message," Anthony says in the video. "It seems like certain people want to ride the attention of this song to maybe make their own selves relevant. That's aggravating as hell."

He also takes issue with the response the song received Wednesday night at Fox News' Republican presidential debate, which saw the likes of Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and more engage with topics ranging from abortion to "Rich Men North of Richmond" and its appeal to voters.

"The other thing I find aggravating, it was funny seeing my song at the presidential debate, because it's like, I wrote the song about those people, so for them to have to sit there and listen to that, that cracks me up," Anthony says. "It was funny seeing the response to it. That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden — it's a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song was written about the people on that stage, and a lot more, too, not just them, but definitely them."

Anthony goes on to say that he does "hate to see that song being weaponized" by both the left and right.

"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 s---'s got to stop," he urges, noting that he doesn't exist in a "political bucket" and instead "represents people and not politics."

Regardless of Anthony's political beliefs, many observers have speculated that "Rich Men North of Richmond" took off due to conservative interest in its lyrics touching on income and worker exploitation, but particularly a portion of the song in which he sings about "the obese milkin' welfare" before stating that "taxes ought not to pay for your bags of Fudge Rounds."

In his new video, Anthony clarifies that the line about Fudge Rounds is a statement about most food stamps only being able to cover inexpensive "junk food," as he describes it.

Oliver Anthony and Ron DeSantis
Oliver Anthony and Ron DeSantis

Oliver Anthony/YouTube; Win McNamee/Getty Images Oliver Anthony and Ron DeSantis

Anthony's surprise hit comes amid a surge in country-oriented, conservative-embraced songs topping the Billboard charts in recent weeks, following Jason Aldean's controversial "Try That in a Small Town" and Morgan Wallen's "Last Night."

Aldean's song and the accompanying music video have proven divisive, with critics accusing the material of promoting racism and gun violence. Pushing back against such complaints, Aldean said the song "for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences. My political views have never been something I've hidden from, and I know that a lot of us in this Country don't agree on how we get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to- that's what this song is about."

Watch Anthony's video about "Rich Men North of Richmond" above.

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Related content: