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Oliver Anthony’s Populist, Polarizing ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ on Track to Debut at Number One

Unknown Virginia country singer Oliver Anthony and his song “Rich Men North of Richmond” have had an unusual, stratospheric rise over the past several days as the track, championed by conservative pundits and politicians, has unexpectedly become one of the best-selling songs in the country this week. “Rich Men” now sits atop Apple Music and Spotify’s U.S. charts along with the iTunes sales chart, and Anthony — wholly anonymous until last week — is now among the strongest contenders for a Number One on Billboard’s Hot 100 next week.

According to data tracking service Luminate, from last Friday through this Monday, “Rich Men North of Richmond” had garnered over 98,000 digital song sales along with about 7.8 million streams. However, it’s yet to achieve significant radio play given how new the song is. At the top of the iTunes chart since Friday, “Rich Men” has significantly more pure sales than other contenders.

In the same time frame, Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night,” the reigning Number One from this week’s Billboard chart and one of the biggest hits of the year, has 13 million streams but just over 3,000 digital sales, with 41 million airplay impressions. In a major year for the genre, Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” — yet another country smash — has about 10 million streams, about 6,000 sales and 58 million radio audience impressions. “Fast Car” was Number Two this week.

Wallen is in the hunt for the longest-running Hot 100 single of all time, with “Last Night” having topped the chart for 16 non-consecutive weeks. Lil Nas X and “Old Town Road” currently hold the record at 19 weeks. Outside of country, there’s also Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer,” which rose to Number Three on the Hot 100 this week and has nearly 15 million streams and about 8,000 sales.

Anthony first posted a video of himself performing “Rich Men North of Richmond” on TikTok on August 1st. A new video of him performing the song, hosted on YouTube by RadioWV, posted August 8th. The song started to blow up two days later after right-wing influencers including Matt Walsh, Dan Bongino, and Jason Howerton began sharing the video. By the beginning of this week, Anthony had the top three songs on the iTunes songs chart and currently has eight, including titles like “Ain’t Gotta Dollar” and “Virginia,” in the Top 25.

If Anthony does win out, it wouldn’t be the first time even in the past month that a song initially championed by conservatives topped the Billboard chart. After getting little attention upon release in April, Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” saw a surge in digital sales last month following the premiere of its music video, which depicted protests as violent and lawless and was filmed at a courthouse in Tennessee where a 1927 lynching occurred. CMT, the country music cable network, pulled the video from rotation.

Like Anthony and “Rich Men,” “Try That in a Small Town” benefited heavily from digital song sales, getting about 174,000 the week it topped the chart. While digital sales continue to wane as streaming has become the most common medium to consume music, buying digital copies of songs and albums is a popular strategy among some fans looking to push their favorite song, album, or artist up the charts. Aldean’s song would’ve hit Number One a week prior if not for BTS member Jung Kook’s solo record “Seven” featuring Latto. “Seven” also had heavy digital sales, with 153,000 the week it topped the chart, along with about 21.9 million streams.


But if the digital sales aren’t consistent, without robust streaming figures, a song’s position on top of the charts will be short-lived. “Seven” dropped to nine the week after its debut and is currently 28 on the Hot 100 with 12.7 million streams and about 1,700 sales last week. After topping the chart, “Try That in a Small Town” dropped to 21, with about 12 million streams and another 12,900 sales.

It’s too early to tell how “Rich Men North of Richmond” will perform longer term, but its place atop Spotify and Apple Music’s US charts — a distinction Aldean didn’t have when he hit Number One — suggests the song could possibly have legs in the weeks ahead.

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