The country singer is the first artist ever to launch atop the list with no prior chart history in any form.
Anthony’s track has amassed more than 30 million views on YouTube in 13 days after becoming the latest weapon in America’s ongoing culture wars.
The lyrics to “Rich Men North of Richmond” involve a number of complaints about taxes, “welfare cheats” and obese people, which critics have argued perpetuate fatphobia and the “welfare queen” trope.
Fans of the song include prominent Republican figures such as Kari Lake and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The artist told Billboard in a statement: “The hopelessness and frustration of our times resonate in the response to this song. The song itself is not anything special, but the people who have supported it are incredible and deserve to be heard.”
“There was not a whole lot of planning involved,” Draven Riffe, Anthony’s co-manager Billboard of the song’s release. “We just knew if we got the video out there, people were going to love the song and it would resonate with a lot of folks. There wasn’t some big, massive planning team around this.
“I had a few friends who helped us push the song out there, like my friend Josh [Baer], who has a page called Country Central. We all coordinated and Oliver’s following [did], as well; we just tried to push it out there all at once with our little group of friends and that’s how it happened.”
In a comment piece for The Independent, Louis Chilton wrote: “There is an irony too in the fact that the ‘new world’ Anthony bemoans in the chorus of ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ is entirely responsible for his overnight success: where else could he have surged to such swift popularity, but along the internet’s algorithmic rapids?
“Conservatives have celebrated his song as a call for unity, a work of blue-collar solidarity – but its sudden popularity is still rooted in the bitter factionalism that continues to rot American politics. It has become a hit not because of its lyrical grace or musical exceptionalism, but because of what it represents.”