In the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, the intersection of politics and art has always been inevitable. However, the summer of 2023 has seen a notable surge in political messaging within the Billboard charts, with songs like Jason Aldean's "Try That in a Small Town" and Oliver Anthony Music's "Rich Men North of Richmond" taking center stage. These hits, characterized by their celebration of small-town values and critique of contemporary political issues, raise important questions about the influence of politics on the American musical landscape.
Art has long been a medium for expressing social, political, and cultural perspectives. Music, in particular, holds the power to reflect the collective sentiment of a society, making it an ideal platform for political messaging. Throughout history, artists have utilized their creative prowess to comment on everything from war and civil rights to economic inequality and environmental concerns.
In the summer of 2023, politics have undoubtedly made its mark on the Billboard charts, giving voice to a segment of the population that is yearning for a return to traditional values in the face of societal and cultural upheaval. Jason Aldean's hit "Try That in a Small Town" became his first number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, fueled by its lyrics about protecting small towns from violent crime. While the song's music video sparked outrage from the woke mob, it resonated deeply with listeners who feel a connection to it's message of community and resilience in the face of violent protests and crime.
Although he is self-decribed centrist and critic of all politicians both right and left, Oliver Anthony's "Rich Men North of Richmond" further exemplifies the trend of political influence on the charts. The song ostensibly is a working-class anthem, echoing the concerns of individuals who feel marginalized by economic disparity. However, a closer look at its second verse with the infamous "fudge round" line, reveals a critique of a welfare system that gives to those who abuse the system, while failing to feed the starving masses who are ineligible for government assistance for bureaucratic reasons. And of course, the "old soul living in a new world" line sums up our collective yearning for a return to simpler and more peaceful times.
The overall surge in country music's popularity in 2023 has further catalyzed the influence of right-wing politics within the music industry. This genre, known for its storytelling and connection to traditional values, has provided a fertile ground for the expression of conservative viewpoints. While not all country musicians align with right-wing ideologies, the genre has undeniably become a vessel through which traditionalist sentiments find resonance.
The juxtaposition between right-wing messages in country music and the broader spectrum of popular music is notable. While artists from various genres may engage in political discourse, country music's embrace of traditionalism has propelled it to the forefront of this cultural renaissance. This is evident in the new succession of right-wing hits on the Billboard charts.
The success of songs like "Try That in a Small Town" and "Rich Men North of Richmond" highlights the potency of music as a means to convey political messages. As these hits continue to captivate audiences, they remind that this new cultural renaissance is apart of a greater emerging trend in the music world today.