Imagine that you’re a regular, hard-working guy from Virginia and you record a song on your farm and post it to the internet, not thinking much of it.
Now imagine that you wake up a few days later and that song is topping multiple charts, you have a handful of offers from record companies worth millions of dollars and you’re one of the most talked about men in the country.
That’s what has happened to Christopher Anthony Lunsford, known more commonly by his stage name, Oliver Anthony.
On Aug. 1, Anthony posted his song “Rich Men North of Richmond” to the internet. Since then, it’s been a record-breaking, viral sensation. The song is currently sitting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and No. 1 on YouTube’s charts with over 33 million views, making Anthony the first-ever artist to debut at the top of the charts with zero prior chart history.
That is wild.
But it may not be so crazy when you listen to the lyrics and the message that Anthony delivers. His song is hitting home for millions of people–not just Americans–as he talks about corrupt politicians and the social and economic problems that their lack of care, and skewed morality, has caused.
Anthony hits on many frustrations and problems shared by a vast swath of people. He talks about working endless hours for minimal pay (I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day”) and then being taxed to the max, with not much left over to show for your hard work.
He says that the politically elite, these “rich men north of Richmond,” want to control the American people. But he believes the common people are smarter than they’re given credit for (“Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do/And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do”). He also calls out the evils of sex trafficking.
Anthony uses profanity in a few lines to drive home his point, calling average wages “bulls— pay.” He says it’s a “d–n shame what the world’s got to” and recognizes that many people struggle with depression and even choose to “drown” their “troubles away” when they feel their financial situation is hopeless as their dollar is “s—” and endlessly taxed.
Anthony calls attention to what he sees are huge problems in society–but, of course, that means he talks about those negative problems. Anthony believes that politicians don’t care. And because they choose greed and corruption over the good of the people, Americans suffer high suicide rates (“young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground”) and abuse the welfare system (“Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds. Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds”).
A few weeks back, the day after this song dropped, my husband pulled it up on YouTube and asked me to listen to the lyrics. He said that he resonates deeply with a lot of what Anthony says. And, evidently, it’s not just him.
Like I said above, Anthony is the first artist to ever debut on the charts at the No. 1 spot with no prior musical history. That’s gotta mean something. I think it means that many hard-working people in America, and around the world, are sick of the state of their countries and the political climates that contribute to those ills.
If you don’t believe me, just hop on Anthony’s YouTube channel and read the comments below his video. People are raving about this track.
But even if you agree with Anthony’s sentiments, that doesn’t mean that the song is squeaky clean. Oliver uses a fair bit of profanity to make his point, and he hits on subjects that are both weighty and mature. Yet, given the nature of the track, the heaviness of the song makes sense.
Oliver asserts that he’s not trying to promote one political side or the other. Instead, he simply wishes to acknowledge that he feels his own lyrics deeply and that he’s written a song for the people, a song that is “not anything special, but the people who have supported it are incredible and deserve to be heard.”
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).