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How Recent Musical Hits Demonstrate a Cultural Vacancy
There’s a new massively popular song that gained its notoriety from social media, called “Rich Men North of Richmond”. After being released on YouTube, it quickly gained millions of views in just days. Regardless of one’s musical taste, there are things that can be learned from the phenomenon.
The song laments the way that the middle class is being overworked and overtaxed, with those taxes being used overseas while there are Americans who are struggling. It places the blame upon politicians in Washington DC, or as the singer-songwriter Oliver Anthony puts it, “rich men north of Richmond”.
If you’re unfamiliar, you can listen to the song here:
Whether country music ballads fit into your usual musical appetite or not, we can discern a few things from its popularity. It was released not long after Try That in a Small Town topped the charts, which was hastened by Country Music Television (CMT) infamously removing the song from rotation, alleging that the song was racist.
What we’re seeing is surely indicative of a disenfranchised cultural majority that does not find themselves represented. There is a vacuum of cultural representations of the working man’s plight, which might be described as an underclass. Part of that absence is intentional in the sense that musicians, poets, writers, etc. struggle to reach audiences. Old-fashioned means of reaching people are tightly controlled by monopolies. Even the internet is not what it was 20 years ago. Reaching people means fighting algorithms on hostile platforms that are already over-saturated with promoted and boosted content, giving those with massive funds the power to drown out smaller contenders.
Art has so often in history been the medium of change — not a pundit repeating that something needs reform. Art can unify people behind a very simple concept. We are now being raised without connections to the art and cultural pieces of the past, so most of us are impoverished of items of unification and thereby left isolated. A media conglomeration that never airs the grievances of struggling individuals in a sympathetic manner leaves people feeling alone and ill-represented. That’s strategic and intentional. People are less likely to stand up if they don’t think anyone will stand up beside them. Therefore, there is a concerted effort to make sure that such things as those that were said during the 2016 election by then-candidate Trump never make it to the airwaves again.
These songs that top the charts don’t show never-before-heard musical ability, but rather lyrics that cause people to feel that sense of community and representation. The popularity that they are receiving proves just how dominant these viewpoints are. Contrary to the narrative that those on the ‘right’ are a fringe minority, there is a massive body of middle-class Americans that are merely silenced and voiceless.
It’s very common to resent high taxation, especially when that money goes abroad, and to desire that the country’s homeless are prioritized over foreigners. It’s normal to be outraged at welfare abuse, and to question foreign aid when your own debt is mounting. It’s reasonable to want American children to have real opportunities in their lives, and to graduate into adulthood with all of their body parts. Don’t accept the lie that only a fringe group questions this state of things. You’re not alone.