Viral Hit ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ Debuts at No. 1

“Rich Men North of Richmond,” an independently released track by the little-known performer billed as Oliver Anthony Music, became the surprise No. 1 song in the United States this week, topping hits by superstars like Taylor Swift, Morgan Wallen and Olivia Rodrigo.

The song, which was uploaded to YouTube just two weeks ago, caught fire with conservative commentators including Matt Walsh and Laura Ingraham, who described it as an authentic expression of working-class struggle, though some critics winced at anti-welfare sentiments that seemed to hark back to the Reagan era: “If you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds/Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds,” sings Anthony, whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford.

“Rich Men” shoots to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart with 17.5 million streams and 147,000 downloads, according to the tracking service Luminate. After Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town,” it is the second country song in less than a month to reach No. 1 after stirring political controversy and sparking download sales — a very small part of the contemporary music business, but one that can have an outsize impact on the charts, thanks to the weighting formulas that Billboard and Luminate use to reconcile streams and sales.

According to Billboard, it is the first time that an artist has made a debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100 without any prior chart history “in any form.”

Whether “Rich Man” can hold the top spot for long is yet to be seen. When Aldean, a Nashville hitmaker for years, rode a wave of culture-war controversy for “Try That in a Small Town” after its music video was criticized as a coded call to vigilantism, the song spent a single week at No. 1; it dropped 20 spots after streams and downloads plunged.

On the album chart, Travis Scott’s “Utopia” holds No. 1 for a third week, thanks in part to a flash sale on the rapper’s website that priced the double vinyl version at $5. Scott sold 99,000 copies of his album, 93,000 of which were on vinyl; he also had 124 million streams. Altogether, “Utopia” was credited with the equivalent of 185,000 sales in the United States, according to Luminate.

The neon-haired Colombian pop star Karol G debuts at No. 3 with her latest release, “Mañana Será Bonito (Bichota Season),” which had the equivalent of 67,000 sales, including 68 million streams. The mixtape is a companion collection to Karol G’s last studio album, the similarly titled “Mañana Será Bonito,” which opened at No. 1 in March.

Also this week, Wallen’s “One Thing at a Time” holds at No. 2, the “Barbie” soundtrack is No. 4 and Swift’s “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is in fifth place.

Ben Sisario covers the music industry. He has been writing for The Times since 1998. More about Ben Sisario

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