Why “Anti-Hero” Is a Better Conservative Anthem Than “Rich Men North of Richmond”

Taylor Swift tackles personal responsibility; Oliver Anthony blames everyone else

Erik Devaney

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There is an odd symmetry to these two songs, which begins with their opening salvos:

While pop star Taylor Swift’s depression figuratively “works the graveyard shift,” country crooner Oliver Anthony has literally been “workin’ all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay.”

Both artists go on to bemoan the existential dread that comes with sitting alone, at home, left to their own devices.

One gets the strong sense that neither Swift nor Anthony is particularly happy with the way their lives have turned out — albeit for very different reasons.

While the former’s fear of abandonment leads to her waking up “screaming from dreaming” that one day she’ll watch as her partner is leaving, the latter wishes he “could just wake up” from the shameful nightmare that is the modern world.

Yes, these surface-level lyrical similarities are intriguing but what I find even more interesting is what happens in the choruses of these respective tunes:

Swift turns inward, boldly declaring herself the problem.

Anthony, meanwhile, turns outward, blaming a laundry list of external forces for his lot in life. These include inflation, taxes, and wealthy people north of the Mason-Dixon line who are, apparently, keen on having “total control” and interested in knowing what Anthony is thinking and doing at all times.

If this comes off as a bit paranoid, dare I say conspiratorial, welp, that seems to be Anthony’s goal.

In the very next verse, he doubles down on the conspiracy theory motif by invoking sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s island. (Note: This reference comes as part of a broader item on Anthony’s list of grievances, in which he seemingly blames pedophilic politicians for the decline of the coal mining industry.)

Next up, Anthony feints at empathizing with unhoused people suffering from hunger before attacking “the obese milkin’ welfare” who, according to Anthony, are using our tax dollars to buy “bags of fudge rounds.”

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Erik Devaney

Full-time stay-at-home dad, part-time ghostwriter, retired pub musician, recovering marketer