The Virginia native (whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford) burst onto the scene with his original song “Rich Men North of Richmond,” which was posted by RadioWV and calls out DC politicians who are out of touch with the working class.
The song quickly resonated with listeners, skyrocketing the original video to over 80 million views while the song racked up over 85 million streams so far on Spotify alone. It also spent two weeks at #1 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, the first time an artist has EVER debuted at the top of the chart with their first single.
And “Rich Men North of Richmond” has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, even making its way into the 2024 presidential race when Republican candidates were asked about the song during the first GOP presidential primary debate.
WATCH: The first question of the #GOPDebate is about Oliver Anthony's 'Rich Men North of Richmond'
For his part, Anthony doesn’t really seem to be a fan of his song being used for political purposes, saying that he falls “dead center” politically and explaining that “Rich Men North of Richmond” is not a shot at either side in particular, but is really calling out politicians on both sides of the aisle:
“It’s hard to get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change.
But I do hate to see that song being weaponized. I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own, and I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That shit’s gotta stop.”
But that hasn’t stopped those on both sides of the aisle from weighing in on the song.
Maren Morris recently criticized Anthony’s hit during an interview, saying that there’s “a lot of problematic stuff” with the second verse, and comparing it to Jason Aldean’s recent hit “Try That In A Small Town.”
“Before I heard the lyrics, I was like ‘This guy can sing his ass off.’
I really do love that type of sound. I like bluegrass, I grew up listening to a lot of that, and anything with a soulful tinge, I’m down for.
I think it was the second verse that threw me for a loop. Plot twist. I don’t have a ton of opinion on it, but I did think it was crazy and it was just kind of compounded with the ‘Small Town’ thing.”
The verse she’s talking about, and the one that’s got the most attention, is of course the “fudge rounds” line:
“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
Well, God, if you’re five-foot-three and you’re three-hundred pounds
Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of Fudge Rounds Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground
‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down”
And during a recent interview with the LA Times, Jason Isbellalso weighed in on the song and criticized Anthony for the song, saying that the singer should have thrown the whole song out and started over:
“Buddy, there’s a reason you just don’t jump in the f*cking pool.
There’s something there. But that’s the song you should have written when you were 16, and then, when you were 19, you should have rewritten it without the part about hating people on welfare.
And then when you are 20 you throw the whole thing out and write another song.”
Now obviously there’s no denying that Isbell is one of the most talented songwriters in country music.
But there’s also no denying that Anthony’s song has clearly resonated with listeners: It currently has more streams on Spotify than all but one of Isbell’s songs, and more streams than all of his solo songs from albums like Southeastern, including his massive hit “Cover Me Up,” which currently has 65 million streams, about 20 million behind “Rich Men North of Richmond.”
Anthony also currently has nearly 7 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.
Hard to argue that a song that’s been streamed that many times should have been scrapped altogether…even if you disagree with what he’s saying.