Who is Oliver Anthony and what is his song ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ about?

18 August 2023, 11:18 | Updated: 7 November 2023, 14:57

Oliver Anthony is an up-and-coming country singer
Oliver Anthony is an up-and-coming country singer. Picture: Oliver Anthony/Facebook/YouTube

By Tom Owen

Unknown country singer Oliver Anthony has become an overnight sensation in the United States, after his latest song went viral.

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Oliver Anthony is a country music singer from Farmville, Virginia, who has become an overnight sensation with his song 'Rich Men North of Richmond'.

The song, which he released on YouTube on August 9, 2023, has amassed over 20 million views and reached the top of the charts on Apple Music and iTunes.

The song has also sparked controversy and debate for its lyrics that criticize politicians, welfare recipients, and child trafficking.

Oliver Anthony’s background and musical journey

Oliver Anthony, whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford, is a former factory worker who started writing his own songs in 2021 as a way of coping with his substance abuse issues.

He said in a YouTube video that he found an outlet in music and that he wanted to express his feelings and frustrations about the state of the country. He also said that he does not identify with any political party and that he sits “pretty dead centre” on the spectrum.

Oliver Anthony - Rich Men North Of Richmond

Anthony used his phone to record videos of himself singing his original songs, such as 'Aint Gotta Dollar' and 'Ive Got to Get Sober', and posted them on his YouTube channel, which had only a few hundred subscribers until recently.

He also performed at local venues and events, such as the Farmville Music Festival in July 2023.

Rich Men North of Richmond: the song that went viral

On August 9, 2023, Anthony uploaded a video of himself playing a song called 'Rich Men North of Richmond' on his guitar. The song tells the story of a man who works hard for “bullsh*t pay” and feels oppressed by the “rich men north of Richmond”, referring to the federal politicians in Washington DC.

The song also laments the problems of homelessness, suicide, taxation, and corruption in the country.

The song quickly went viral on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Reddit, where it received millions of views, likes, comments, and shares. Many people praised the song for its raw emotion, catchy melody, and relatable message.

Oliver Anthony - Virginia

Some also called it a “blue-collar anthem” and a “right-wing anthem” that resonated with their values and beliefs.

The song also caught the attention of several prominent conservative figures, such as US Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, former Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake, and commentator Matt Walsh, who endorsed the song and shared it with their followers.

Greene called the song “the truth” and said that it was “what America needs to hear”. Lake said that the song was “the anthem of this moment in American history”. Walsh said that the song was “a masterpiece” and that it was “the most important cultural event of our time”.

The song’s popularity also translated into commercial success, as it climbed to the top of the charts on Apple Music and iTunes. As of August 18, 2023, the song was number one on Apple Music’s Top 100 USA chart and number one on iTunes’ Top 40 US Country chart. The song also entered Spotify’s Top 50 USA list at number three.

Rich Men North of Richmond: the controversy and criticism

While the song has received a lot of praise and support from many listeners, it has also faced a lot of criticism and backlash from others who found its lyrics offensive, divisive, or inaccurate. Some of the controversial lines in the song include:

  • “The obese milking welfare / If you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds”
  • “I wish politicians would look out for miners, And not just minors on an island somewhere"
  • "Lord, it’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to, For people like me and people like you"

Some critics accused the song of being fatphobic, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, or anti-Semitic. Some also argued that the song was spreading misinformation or conspiracy theories about topics such as welfare abuse, child trafficking, gun rights, or religious freedom.

Oliver Anthony performing
Oliver Anthony performing. Picture: Oliver Anthony/YouTube

Some also pointed out that the song was hypocritical or contradictory, as it complained about taxation while benefiting from public services or infrastructure.

Some critics also questioned Anthony’s credibility or authenticity as a country singer or a working-class representative. Some claimed that he was exploiting his audience’s emotions or grievances for fame or money. Some also suggested that he was influenced or funded by political or corporate interests.

Some critics also compared the song to other controversial country songs that have stirred up controversy in recent years, such as Jason Aldean’s 'Try That in a Small Town' or Morgan Wallen’s use of a racial slur.

Oliver Anthony’s response and future plans

Oliver Anthony has not given any major interviews or statements about his song or its reception. He has only posted a few videos on his YouTube channel thanking his fans for their support and expressing his surprise and gratitude for his sudden fame.

He has also said that he has turned down several record label offers worth millions of dollars, as he wants to remain independent and true to himself.

Anthony has also said that he is working on new songs and that he plans to release an album soon. He has also announced that he will be performing at the Redneck Rave festival in Kentucky in September 2023, along with other country artists such as Upchurch, Adam Calhoun, and Demun Jones.

Anthony has also asked his fans to be respectful and civil to each other and to those who disagree with his song. He has said that he does not want to cause any harm or division with his music, but rather to inspire people to think for themselves and to stand up for what they believe in.

Moving Forward

He has also said that he hopes that his song will spark a conversation and a dialogue about the issues that affect the country and its people.

He said on Facebook: “People in the music industry give me blank stares when I brush off $8m offers. I don’t want 6 tour buses, 15 tractor trailers and a jet. I don’t want to play stadium shows, I don’t want to be in the spotlight.”

He continued: “I wrote the music I wrote because I was suffering with mental health and depression.

“These songs have connected with millions of people on such a deep level because they’re being sung by someone feeling the words in the very moment they were being sung. No editing, no agent, no bulls***. Just some idiot and his guitar. The style of music that we should have never gotten away from in the first place.”