Newcomer Oliver Anthony Goes Viral In Divided US

21 August 2023 | 12:04 pm | Mary Varvaris

While the song has gained attention from political figures on the left and the right, Anthony has stated that he stands at the “centre of the road” regarding politics.

Oliver Anthony

Oliver Anthony (Source: YouTube/@radiowv)

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Country music newcomer and overnight sensation Oliver Anthony has found viral fame in recent weeks, with a video of him performing his song, Rich Men North Of Richmond, gaining over 28 million views in 12 days on YouTube.

The video, posted by a Radio West Virginia channel, has gained an abundance of attention and with it, controversy. Anthony resembles Abraham from The Walking Dead television series: redheaded, gruff, and a blue-collar icon. Unlike the fictional character, however, Anthony carries an acoustic guitar over his shoulder.

What, exactly, is driving the controversy? It likely stems from the lyrics, particularly the chorus: “I wish politicians would look out for miners / And not just minors on an island somewhere / Lord, we got folks in the street, ain't got nothin' to eat / And the obese milkin' welfare.

Early in the song, he sings, “I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay.” While the song has gained attention from political figures on the left and the right, Anthony has stated that he stands at the “centre of the road” when it comes to politics, via Taste Of Country.

Another American singer-songwriter, John Rich, has piped in, tweeting last week, “All the major record labels in Nashville are falling over themselves to lure Oliver Anthony,” he wrote on 16 August. “The irony is, if he would’ve been signed to a label when he wrote this song, none of us would have EVER heard it! His song fried their brains. Their greed is overriding their wokeness.”

American far-right politician Marjorie Taylor Greene added that Rich Men North Of Richmond represents “the anthem of the forgotten Americans”, while NBC News called the track a “conservative anthem”, via the BBC.

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On Friday (18 August), the singer took to Facebook and shared why he doesn’t want to sign an $8 million record deal, despite his success, writing, “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 bullshit. Just some idiot and his guitar. The style of music that we should have never gotten away from in the first place.”

You can watch the video below.

The controversy surrounding Rich Men North Of Richmond follows another country music incident, this one including Jason Aldean’s Try That In A Small Town music video.

Aldean came under fire after releasing the music video for Try That In A Small Town, his May single.

The singer denied “pro-lynching” allegations as footage in the video was reportedly filmed at a Columbia, Tennessee courthouse at the site of a 1933 lynching. The video also received criticism for its pro-gun messaging and “racist dog-whistling”.