The closest thing to a summer song in America comes from the depths of rural Virginia. Songwriter Oliver Anthony accomplished something historic on Monday, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time without ever having charted before and without a contract. His song Rich men north of Richmond was the first he recorded using a professional microphone rather than his cell phone, just as he did to popularize his music with the world on his YouTube channel. Thanks to social media, the song went viral for its critique of Washington politicians who ignore the reality of working class life like him. The issue has particularly resonated with right-wing supporters of the Republican Party.
Only Oliver Anthony’s voice and guitar can be heard in Rich men north of Richmond. The theme has no other arrangement or instrument. That raspy sound drives the rural wails that come from the bowels of a remote state farm where the singer-songwriter lives with his three dogs and composes music in his free time. The video was recorded by a friend who works for RadioWV, a West Virginia site dedicated to discovering musical talent in the area. Just 13 days ago, it was uploaded to the video platform with the intention of reaching 300,000 views. During this period, over 31 million views were recorded. With Spotify, the story is similar. Within ten days, 15 million were registered.
This phenomenon was enough to place the song at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, which brings together songs from every genre played in audio and video streaming, radio, and physical format sales. However, Anthony tops the list with no radio stations promoting his song. The magazine has 17.5 million views and 147,000 downloads. According to the music magazine, an average song at the top of this list usually sells about 15,000 downloads per week.
“Living in the new world / With an old soul / Those rich men north of Richmond / God knows they want to be in control / They want to know what you’re thinking, they want to know what you’re doing / And they think that you don’t. “I don’t know, but I know I do / Because your dollars are shit and they have pointless taxes / For the rich men north of Richmond,” Anthony sings in part of the song, which is performed in cities like Atlanta, Charlotte , has become a sensation. Minneapolis, Dallas and Chicago.
The composer, whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford, has tried to reflect on the success that has suddenly come to someone who started making music in 2021 as a way to get out of depression and as mental health therapy. “I think these songs have touched millions of people on a very deep level because they are sung by someone who feels the words the moment they are said. No editing, no agent, no nonsense… Just an idiot and his guitar. It’s a style we should never have gotten rid of,” Anthony wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
Lunsford is originally from Farmville, a small town west of Richmond. His stage name is a homage to his grandfather and the world of the Appalachians in the 1930s. In his songs, Anthony tries to return to the world of rural poverty and hard times for big families like his. It’s the setting that plays out many of the country genre’s themes, such as the childhood described by Loretta Lynn in one of her early hits, Coal Miner’s Daughter (1969).
The composer shared part of his personal story with his new followers. He dropped out of school at age 17 while still in high school. Since 2010, he has held various manufacturing jobs across the state of North Carolina. The last one, he says, was in a paper mill. “I worked the third shift six days a week for $14.5 an hour. It was hell,” writes Anthony, who reveals he had an accident ten years ago that fractured his skull and forced him to return to his native Virginia. He has been a sales representative in a manufacturing company since 2014 and is therefore on the road a lot. On these trips he met other factory and industrial workers. “People are VERY sick of being belittled, divided and manipulated,” the musician added.
After going viral almost without looking for it, Anthony has shared his thoughts on fame. “I never wanted to be a full-time musician, let alone top the iTunes charts… People in the industry stare blankly at me when I turn down their $8 million contract offers. I don’t want six trucks for a tour, 15 tractors or an airplane. “I don’t want to give concerts in stadiums or be in the spotlight,” revealed the musician. And he admits: “There is nothing special about me. I’m neither a good musician nor a good person. I’ve spent the last five years struggling with my mental health and abusing alcohol to drown it out.
Many in the United States have linked the song to the right, a sector that shares many of the criticisms Anthony pours into his lyrics. The high taxes, the welfare abusers, the mistreatment of veterans, patriots and members of the working class. At one point, the composer says he wishes politicians would care about miners and not just “minors on islands,” a nod to multi-millionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who is linked to several Democrats.
The song and its theme received applause from various politicians around Donald Trump and supporters of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement. Among them are radical Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, Matt Walsh and former Arizona nominee Kari Lake, who like Trump lost an election arguing she was a victim of fraud without proving it. Given the impetus that conservatives have given to his subject, the author confines himself to saying that he sees himself from the center in which he has always “been”. However, its position on the Billboard charts is undisputed.
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