Billy Bragg Destroys Oliver Anthony (Empathetically) on "Rich Men Earning North of a Million"

Exclaim! Staff Picks

BY Alex HudsonPublished Aug 22, 2023

As the planet burns and the cost-of-living crisis gets worse by the day, viral country artist Oliver Anthony has scored chart-topping hit by bizarrely conflating exploitative politicians with people who use welfare to buy fudge. "Rich Men North of Richmond" is very nearly a protest anthem, until it somehow takes a sharp turn and ends up being a hacky novelty song mocking poor people.

Veteran protest singer Billy Bragg shows him how it's done with the retort "Rich Men Earning North of a Million" — a song that absolutely destroys Anthony in the most empathetic way possible. Bragg borrows lyrics and melodies directly from Anthony's song and advises the newcomer, "We ain't gonna punch down on those who need / A bit of understanding and some solidarity / That ain't right, friend."

Where Anthony keeps his criticisms of those in power vague — making the song popular among some of the very lawmakers he's ostensibly attacking — Bragg is here to deliver hard truths. "Well, we know your culture wars are there to distract / While libertarian billionaires avoid paying tax / You wanna talk about bathrooms while the floodwaters rise / The forest is on fire and the wind burns our eyes," he sings. Now that's how you write a subversive protest song about taxes.


Latest Coverage