Editorial: What Does The Success of Oliver Anthony Music’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” Tell Us about Us?

Rich Man North of Richmond’s viral star seems to not be the one who wants any of this massively viral success he’s achieved. Why has the song even resonated? How did something so raw become so ‘manufactured’ by the divisive internet and what happens next, if anything?

To take Oliver Anthony at his word, he only hoped that his viral hit “Rich Men North of Richmond” would find 300,000 or so views via RadioWv and he can’t “quite believe what has went on…since uploading (the song)” going on to say, “It’s just strange to me.”

Again, if we take him at his word, we should be happy for the humble man who released a song to the world, much like he seemingly has done through the past couple of years, without much fanfare. Yet, somehow, “Rich Men North of Richmond” clicked with the right wing social media “influencers” who helped guide this song to over 150,000 paid downloads and hundreds of thousands of streams the past week. It’s projected to debut at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and likely will take #1 the following week taking a trajectory that is eerily similar to Jason Aldean’s “Try That In A Small Town”). And that’s the rub that mainstream media and music media has with the song aside from some lyrics which play both sides and then punch down towards the end.

Oliver Anthony has said he never did want the level of the success he’s getting and he even claims he’s turned down $8m offers from the music industry (he should also turn down any offers from folks like John Rich if he’s at all honest about his intentions) to keep his music very independent and folksy and from his heart.

The only problem with any of this is that he’s no longer going to ever be seen as independent. Things like what’s happened to “Rich Man North Of Richmond” simply do not happen independently or in a vacuum (it takes a coordinated effort and lots of money). He’s become a hero of the vocal conservatives who champion freedom except if someone’s freedom deviates from their version of it (y’know, like say LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights and measures of gun control after endless mass shootings). He’s also become a hero of the very people he despises in “Rich Men North of Richmond,” (the Rich Men who live to keep the man down) that’s also something Oliver Anthony (real name Christopher Anthony Lunsford) probably never wanted.

He wants to make honest, real music for other people like him, the ones who suffer from mental health issues and depression. But while he has absolutely reached some of those folks, the people he’s mostly reached are the jaded people he rails against. The jaded who use identity politics to become wealthy off the backs of the truly hard-working people like him. He’s reached the divisive right wing of our country who have rode the Trump Train of division and hate and fear of the other.

It IS true that America is seemingly more divided than ever and I’ve been guilty at times of feeling the same thing. I’ve been attacked by Travis Tritt on Twitter for challenging his disingenuous posts. John Rich once asked who I wrote for (I replied and told him outright, I wasn’t hiding on my personal Twitter account). I bristle on social media the most at the misinformation campaigns and false flag stuff (from any source). While I’ve called out the social media conservatives more than social media liberals, I feel there are times both extremes are pushing for an America (and world) I do not want. Which, I feel, is what Oliver Anthony is saying in his facebook post which I’ve quoted here.

He asks why we “have let false idols distract us and divide us” and that “it’s a damn shame” and I wholeheartedly agree. That being said, There are plenty of “false idols” in the entire country, many who are politicians, many who are celebrities, many who are social media ‘influencers’ and many who are religious leaders. Many of whom have gotten behind “Rich Men North of Richmond” and turned it into some “own the libs” song when the song was actually more libertarian than they actually let on. Oliver Anthony seems like an honest man who definitely has self-image problems (“I’m not a good musician,not a very good person”) and has, like many in the poor towns of America I’ve seen all over this country (and come from), he self-medicates with Alcohol.

Where will all this lead? Who knows. But, all I do know is that if Oliver Anthony chooses to use the platform he was given by the social media, he seems to hate so much to bring light to some of the forgotten (by nearly ALL politicians), well, that’ll be a good thing. But I suspect they’ll turn on him, in the grand American way, when there ends up being some purity test done on him and that he’s really like Most Americans: fed up with both sides and right down the middle both politically and socially.