Oliver Anthony Music is the king of country right now, and it would appear that he’s using his fresh platform to bring people together. But some of his early supporters are hitting back at his calls for unity and diversity.
The U.S. artist’s breakout viral hit “Rich Men North of Richmond” debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, in doing so making him the first artist ever to launch atop the list with no prior chart history in any form.
Since topping the tally, the Farmville, Va.-based singer-songwriter and former factory worker, born Christopher Anthony Lunsford (whose stage name honors his grandfather, Oliver Anthony) has kept quiet on his social accounts.
Though he did give an interview with Fox News which, like his popular song, has gone viral.
“We are the melting pot of the world,” he says in the interview, which took place at his concert in Moyock, N.C. on Saturday (Aug. 19). “And that’s what makes us strong, our diversity. And we need to learn to harness that and appreciate it and not use it as a political tool to keep everyone separate from it.”
Those statesmanlike comments, however, have fallen flat with conservatives. The “exclusive” interview with the rightwing Fox Network has triggered a social media pile-on.
“Such a let down. Did he sell out already to the rich men north of Richmond?,” reads one tweet. Another claims, “Damn, thought we had a real one. He switched up so fast.”
Writes another social media user on the speed of the backlash, “S—. That was fast”.
After first catching drew buzz online earlier this month, the independently released song drew praise from the right and opposition from the left, with its lyrics referencing “your dollar taxed to no end ’cause of rich men north of Richmond,” as well as “the obese milkin’ welfare.”
Stated Anthony in a video posted Aug. 7, “I sit pretty dead center down the aisle on politics and always have.” He added on Facebook Aug. 17, “I am sad to see the world in the state it’s in, with everyone fighting with each other.”
On the left side of politics, legendary British singer and songwriter Billy Bragg penned an op-ed for The Guardian, the U.K.’s left-leaning daily, in which he posits that “Anthony really does punch down on the poor.” The Bard of Barking continues, “The lives of ordinary working people are being torn apart by the rich, he laments, but we can fix it if we cut welfare – and taxes too.”
As the divisive song went all the way to the top, and lines were being drawn, Anthony shared a comment with Billboard, “The hopelessness and frustration of our times resonate in the response to this song. The song itself is not anything special, but the people who have supported it are incredible and deserve to be heard.”