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Conservative pop culture is having a moment

The first GOP debate of the 2024 presidential primary season kicked off on Fox News this week with an unusual message: a clip of a low-budget country song by an artist who has had no public recognition for three weeks.

“Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taped to no end,” singer Oliver Anthony proclaims with his a thick red beard and a southern drawl. “These rich men in north Richmond, Lord knows they all just want total control.”

Seemingly out of nowhere, the blue-collar track has exploded in popularity and reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Antoni made history by becoming the first singer-songwriter to top the chart without ever having released a song. The hit has over 37 million views in about two weeks on YouTube and is her #1 music video.

“Hollywood” has long been synonymous with progressive media. Republicans have scoffed at the powerful microphone they believe liberal elites have in television, film and music. And as the country becomes increasingly polarized, conservatives are coming together to amplify their own voices.

In an interview with The Hill, Montclair State University associate professor Joel Penney, author of “Pop Culture, Politics, and the News: Entertainment Journalism in the Polarized Media Landscape,” attributed the rise of conservative entertainment to a new appreciation for this one. The slightly older conservative media world “didn’t think pop culture was worth the attention,” Penney said.

But now, he added, conservatives have realized “the path to long-term political success [is] to reclaim pop culture from the left, which they see as total domination of the entertainment world.”

“Rich Men North of Richmond” has drawn passionate praise from right-wing figures including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

“That’s the message that Washington needs to hear because that’s how our people think and feel,” Greene said. published in Xformerly known as Twitter.

Lake, who is considering a Senate run in 2024, he said that “It’s raw, it’s true, and it’s touching the hearts of the men and women of this great nation.”

And Anthony isn’t alone in finding success this summer with conservative audiences who typically get little attention from mainstream artists.

Also “Try That in a Small Town” by country star Jason Aldean topped the Billboard chart with your message on the right.

“I got a gun that my grandpa gave me. They say they’ll get together one day,” Aldean sings. “Well that shit might fly into town, good luck.”

The corresponding music video was much criticized for its clips of Black Lives Matter protests along with footage of a shoplifting, carjacking and footage of people burning American flags. The video was shot at the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where 18-year-old Henry Choate was lynched in 1927.

Country music television took out the song of her rotation, but Republicans jumped to her defense.

“Jason Aldean is an awesome guy who just came out with a great new song. Support Jason all the way. MAGIC!!!” Former President Trump posted on his Truth Social account.

“When the media attacks you, you are doing something right. [Aldean] he has nothing to apologize for,” echoed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

And the red state’s summer of entertainment hasn’t been limited to music.

Last month, the faith-based thriller “Sound of Freedom” took Hollywood by surprise, grossing more than the latest Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible films with its story of a former federal agent rescuing children of sex trafficking.

The critics have it hit the movie to amplify conspiracy theories about child exploitation. The film stars Jim Caviezel, who also played Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.” is a prominent promoter of QAnonand the plot of the film puts the same issue—child sex trafficking—at the heart of the QAnon conspiracy, which falsely claims that elite Democrats are involved in trafficking and cannibalism networks.

Prominent Republicans have praised the film. Trump hosted a private screening in Bedminster, NJ, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) commented, “Wow. Wow! Wow” after watching it, asking supporters to take the time to do the same.

The rise of these conservative pop culture hits is no accident. As politics increasingly permeates every aspect of society, conservative artists like Anthony and Aldean may see an opening to expand their fan base and push back against institutions that the right has historically criticized for favoring Democrats over republicans

Penney said the summer’s viral moments have been “helpful to the conservative movement because it expressed this kind of populist anger against the elites.”

“[Republicans] saw this viral video almost as a political ad, the best political ad they could find for the next election cycle,” he said.

“There’s an authenticity that comes through especially when he sings about people’s dissatisfaction with the economy and low wages. … A lot of people are disenchanted with the way our economy is working.”

The success of “Sound of Freedom” and “Rich Men North of Richmond” suggests that Hollywood and the music industry may have overlooked an audience of conservatives eager to hear and see media that better represents them and their views .

It’s too early to tell if these recent successes represent the start of a larger break in entertainment, or if the summer of 2023 turns out to be a one-hit wonder for conservative pop culture.

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