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Aug 26

Charts – 25 August 2023

Posted on Saturday, August 26, 2023 by Paul in Music

As anticipated, Billie Eilish only manages a single week – which means she’s now had two 1-week number ones. We’re still in Barbie territory, though.

1. Dua Lipa – “Dance the Night (From Barbie the Album)”

Climbing to number 1 in its thirteenth week on chart. This has grown on me somewhat, but it still strikes me as something of a generic Dua Lipa track. It’s her fourth number 1, following “New Rules” (2017), “One Kiss” (2018) and “Cold Heart” (2021). The Billie Eilish track is at number 2, and we’ve also got “Barbie World” at 9, “Speed Drive” at 15, and “I’m Just Ken” at 22. Overall, the Barbie wave seems to have crested, and given how long it took Dua Lipa to get here in the first place, I suspect she won’t be here too long.

In an absurdly quiet week for new singles, there is just a single new entry on the top 40. There’s also a slightly baffling re-entry for “Dog Days are Over” by Florence & The Machine at number 27, which appears to have had its downweighting reset on the very tenuous basis that it’s in a film soundtrack on Disney+ – but it already reached number 21 earlier in the year.

But what about that new entry? Ah. Well.

23. Oliver Anthony Music – “Rich Men North of Richmond”

This is the current US number one. Let’s start with the basics. Oliver Anthony is the stage name of one Christopher Lunsford – apparently it was the name of his grandfather, adopted in reference to his Depression-era influences. “Rich Men North of Richmond” is a self-release, and the first thing that he’s professionally recorded. The video above comes from RadioWV, which is run by one of Anthony’s managers, but has been running for several years posting similar performances by unsigned Americana acts (without any apparent political angle). I have no idea why he’s listed on streaming services as “Oliver Anthony Music” but the chart is faithfully listing him accordingly.

It’s a massive viral hit in America, and the first time anyone has entered the US chart at number 1 with their debut single. So he’s the American Whigfield.

The song itself laments the plight of the working man, who works hard for low pay, a situation which the song blames principally on rich northerners who don’t care about his community, and on welfare scroungers. There’s a clear thread of “world in decline”. There are some ambiguous suggestions of a conspiratorial worldview – Jeffrey Epstein’s private island, for example, is a common feature in US conspiracy theories, but not actually a conspiracy theory in itself. It’s understandably been taken as a right-wing song; Republicans embrace it, the left disapprove of the welfare stuff. Looking beyond the song itself, while Anthony claims to be in the political centre, the fact that his YouTube channel includes a playlist with some conspiracy theory material about Mossad being involved in 9/11, and a whole bunch of Jordan Peterson videos, rather suggests otherwise. Then again, he’s also publicly rejected the endorsement of Republican candidates, on the grounds that he counts them among the people he was complaining about in the first place.

The more troubling stuff on the margins will pass most listeners by. What they’ll take from it is that being poor sucks, hard work isn’t being fairly rewarded, the establishment don’t care, and it’s not fair that some people work the welfare system. This isn’t a particularly unusual combination of views and the fact that there’s an audience for it when married to a genuinely good singer with a lot of conviction shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. If you only know the song by reputation, then in purely musical terms, it’s a lot better than you’re probably imagining.

But it’s not the sort of song you expect to make the UK top 40, on genre grounds alone. It’s not here due to a download campaign – only 10% of its chart points come from sales – it really does seem to have connected on some level. A very unusual record indeed, and it’s difficult to know quite what to make of its appearance here.

This week’s climbers (well, other than Dua Lipa):

  • “Paint The Town Red” by Doja Cat climbs 15-4. After the lead single from the album stalled at 37, this will be a great relief.
  • “Disconnect” by Becky Hill and Chase & Status climbs 8-7.
  • “Desire” by Calvin Harris & Sam Smith climbs 9-8.
  • “Baddadan” by Chase & Status, Bou and Flowdan climbs 20-14.
  • “Prada” by casso x Raye x D-Block Europe climbs 32-20.
  • “Asking” by Sonny Fodera & MK featuring Clementine Douglas climbs 31-21.
  • “Closer” by Bou featuring Slay climbs 28-24.
  • “Bittersweet Goodbye by Issey Cross climbs 38-31.
  • “Fast Car” by Luke Combs climbs 39-34.

Between “Rich Men”, “Dog Days are Over” and Rudimental’s “Dancing is Healing” re-entering at 40, we have three records leaving the top 40:

  • “Pink (From Barbie the Album)” by Lizzo had four weeks in the top 40 but couldn’t get above 27.
  • “Talibans” by Byron Messia vastly outperformed expectations, peaking at 12 and with 11 weeks on chart.
  • “How Does It Feel” by Tom Grennan peaked at 17, with 9 weeks on chart.

“Miracle” by Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding remains the longest-running track on the chart, at 24 weeks. It’s current at number 32.

On the album chart:

1. Hozier – “Unreal Unearth”

His third album, his first number 1 – the previous two both made the top 10. To be fair, he’s chosen a quiet week this time. The single “Eat Your Young” got to number 22.

6. The View – “Exorcism of Youth” 

Their sixth album, after an eight year hiatus. You might remember them having a few hit singles circa 2007, when they got “Same Jeans” to number 3. This is their highest position for an album since 2009.

7. Renée Rapp – “Snow Angel”

Debut album; she’s better known as an actress. She has Broadway experience, but this isn’t a showtunes album.

13. Birdy – “Portraits”

Finally… well, that’s more 80s than I expected. It’s her fifth album; since the last two both made number 4, the position is a bit disappointing.

Bring on the comments

  1. David Goldfarb says:

    “Rich Men North of Richmond” isn’t just “northerners”: if you go to the capital of Virginia and head north, the first big city you’ll come to is Washington D.C. (In fact Washington is nearly due north from there.) So the “rich men” are specifically politicians.

    Lunsford has given interviews more recently where he says explicitly that he means politicians from both of the major parties.

  2. K says:

    Behold me, Great Ring of Arakko!

    The both-sided one, whose even hands bear the sharp swords of wisdom!

    Lycaon the balanced one is here!

  3. Chris V says:

    I get the feeling he is just using the term “centrist” out of convenience due to his problem being with both major political parties. Based on what I’ve seen, I think “apolitical” might be a better description. He is venting his frustration about rich/out-of-touch politicos, in general. The song simply seems like a way for himself, identifying as from a proletarian background, to voice his complaints about what he finds troublesome, irregardless of if it’s compatible with the “Left” or the “Right”. He, basically, seems to expect that no one is ever going to do anything about the problems (as he sees them), so let’s all bemoan and commiserate together.
    Lansford is probably amused that the majority of people are taking a political stance on the song while it seems to be solidly a song about political pessimism.

  4. Eric G says:

    A question, which probably demonstrates I know nothing about how the UK charts work from here in the US: How much, if any, of the song’s listens can be ascribed to people hearing about it on the news and wanting to give it a listen for themselves?

  5. Paul says:

    The chart counts both audio and video streaming, but it gives much more weight to subscription services than to ad-supported streaming. Specifically, before the downweighting rule kicks in, 600 ad-supported streams = 100 subscription streams = 1 sale. So you’re highly unlikely to make much headway simply from curiosity clicks on YouTube, or even from fans playing a track on repeat – very few people can be bothered playing a track 600 times just to have the same effect as buying one copy. “Rich Men North of Richmond” had chart points equivalent to 12,000 sales, 90% of which was streaming. That’s roughly equivalent to 1m subscription streams or 6.5m ad-supported ones.

  6. Mark Coale says:

    As a general rule, the Northern Virgina suburbs outside of DC are red and the Maryland suburbs around DC are blue. And both are among the richest counties in the USA, along with some of the NYC suburbs.

    (Said as someone who has lived in MD and VA, but not in or around DC, either side of the Potomac River)

  7. Mike Loughlin says:

    My takeaway from “Rich Men…” is that politicians are keeping money for themselves, they’re only helping the “Welfare queens” who want to get fat on the government’s dime, and no one is helping the poor working man. On the first and last points, he’s not entirely wrong. It’s too bad he had to take a turn towards blaming people who aren’t actually doing anything to him or the rest of the working class.

    Also, Oliver Anthony gave an recent interview in which he labeled diversity a positive thing so now some of his new fanbase is rejecting him.

  8. Jeff says:

    I’m not the target audience for Rich Men North of Richmond, I live in Los Angeles, but regardless of what Oliver Anthony says that song is full of alt-right language. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy so saying the problem with the country is people north of there is absolutely going to be read as a Southern pride thing. Some of his welfare language comes really close to language coded to mean “minorities” in America. I think it’s a little disingenuous on his part to play ignorance on why it’s popular with Republicans. If he’s telling the truth he’s really naive. I’ll give him that the song is good musically, though.

  9. Omar Karindu says:

    Yeah. Anthony comes across as Very Online, with plenty of online sloganeering in his politics (which therefore skew reactionary). I can buy that he’s not really thinking too hard about any of it, but that isn’t much better.

    For one thing, welfare and food assistance in the U.S. have been tied to work requirements for decades now, and most of the non-working folks getting benefits are disabled, retired, or survivors of deceased workers (often stay-at-home parents whose working partner has died).

    More broadly, you’re never too far from some horrible ideas when you start trying to sort people into the undeserving poor and the virtuous poor.

    But this is a lot of time for someone who I expect won’t chart again, and will likely be forgotten a year from now.

  10. Chris V says:

    I don’t think that he’s ignorant of why parts of this song would appeal to Right-Wingers so much as he’s bemused at rich/out-of-touch Republican politicos claiming the song as representative of their own, while ignoring other parts of the song, when he’s also addressing them. “Yeah, you’re not going to do anything to help people like us.”

    For those interested, Billy Bragg wrote a response to the song. Basically replying, “Yeah, you’re right. I agree. Why are you attacking people on welfare though? Also, instead of your pessimism about change, let me offer that unions might be an answer.”

  11. David Goldfarb says:

    I note that this week’s Billboard chart is out, and “Rich Men” stays at #1 in the US for a second week, which I confess surprises me. I thought it would drop 20 places or so, just like “Try That in a Small Town” did.

  12. Joseph S. says:

    Wait, so despite Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia reaching number 1 in the UK album charts, none of her singles did?

  13. Paul says:

    None of the singles from “Future Nostalgia”, you mean? Correct. “Don’t Start Now” spent three weeks at number 2 (behind “Dance Monkey”).

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