Just two weeks ago, almost no one had ever heard of Oliver Anthony. Then, the Virginia-based country singer-songwriter, whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford, went viral with the instant Number One hit “Rich Men North of Richmond.” The song — a raw, solo-acoustic, undeniably catchy track — combined righteous populist complaints about inflation and taxes with nasty swipes at welfare recipients.
As Rolling Stone pointed out early on, his initial rise was buoyed by heavy, curiously simultaneous support from conservative politicians and media figures. And though his streams soon caught up, his chart success was heavily-fueled by song downloads, arriving just weeks after conservative fans of Jason Aldean focused their energy on buying tracks in that dying format in order to deliberately juice his chart numbers.
But there’s no denying that after those first few days, the song genuinely caught fire with listeners, whether they connected with the part about “overtime hours for bullshit pay,” the welfare-bashing, or the conspiracy-tinged lines about rich men who “wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do.” And Anthony himself — who says he’s neither a Republican nor a Democrat — complicated the narrative when he angered racists after calling the U.S. “the melting pot of the world,” and said he saw strength in diversity. This week, Republican presidential primary debate co-moderator Martha MacCallum name-dropped Anthony’s song in her first question, asking Florida governor Ron DeSantis why he thought it caught on. His answer included a mention of Hunter Biden.
In the new episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, Joseph Hudak joins host Brian Hiatt to discuss Anthony’s rise, how it happened, and what it means. The discussion touches on the song’s musical merits, whether the conservative media ecosystem is the last monoculture, and much more. To listen to the whole podcast, go here to the podcast provider of your choice, listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or just press play above.
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