A viral song by country singer Oliver Anthony has been criticised for “offensive” lyrics, while being praised by a number of prominent right-wing figures.
The song, titled “Rich Men North of Richmond” has amassed more than 11 million views on YouTube in under a week, and has risen to No 1 on the iTunes country chart.
Prior to the song’s release, Anthony had been an obscure figure on the country music scene, describing himself as a farmer and former factory worker who lives off the grid.
The lyrics to “Rich Men North of Richmond” involve a number of complaints about politicians, welfare recipients and taxes. Fans have hailed the song as an ode to the American working class, with right-wing media personalities such as Dan Bongino, Matt Walsh, and country singer John Rich praising the track on social media.
“I’ve been selling my soul, working all day / Overtime hours for bulls*** pay,” sings Anthony in the song.
However, some of the other lyrics have prompted criticism from listeners.
“Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothing to eat and the obese milking welfare,” goes one line. “Well God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds/ Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.”
Elsewhere, he sings: “Your dollar ain’t s*** and it’s taxed to no end / ‘cause of rich men north of Richmond.”
Listeners voiced their criticism of the song on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ isn’t some ode to the working class,” one person wrote. “It’s a reactionary tune that perpetuates fatphobia and the classic ‘welfare queen’ trope popularised by [former US president Ronald Reagan]. It vaguely critiques the wealthy yet directly/inaccurately blames the poor for ‘milkin’’ the system.”
“‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ is an archetypal example of right wing populist ideology,” another commented.
“There’s a vague gesture against elites keeping working people down, but the alleged mechanism by which they are keeping them down is by giving their tax dollars to ‘undeserving’ poor people.”
Someone else remarked: “Nothing says class consciousness like a song where the entire middle verse is about how the poor can’t eat because of obese welfare recipients.”
“The opening of the song totally makes you think it’s going to have a cogent political point, so I thought he meant like a ‘corporate fat cat’, but no, he just means the obese lmao. It’s such weird misdirected anger,” another person wrote.
The Independent has reached out to Anthony for comment.
In a video shared to YouTube shortly after the song’s release, Anthony describes himself as being “pretty dead center down the aisle on politics, and always have [been]”.
On the iTunes country chart, Anthony’s song has overtaken Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town”, another song which attracted controversy thanks to inflammatory lyrics.