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How an obscure country artist’s viral song became a conservative anthem

Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” shot to the top of the U.S. Apple Music and iTunes Country charts and racked up more than 9 million views in five days.

Conservatives and far-right pundits are rallying around a new country song from a relatively unknown artist that went viral online after appearing on YouTube last week.

Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” shot to the top of the U.S. Apple Music and iTunes Country charts and racked up more than 9 million views in five days, launching the indie singer — a previously off-the-grid farmer from a small town in Virginia — into the public eye almost overnight.

The song's lyrics, a soulful expression of working-class frustrations while tearing into wealthy Washington elites, have made it an anti-establishment anthem, especially among blue-collar workers.

On Sunday, Anthony’s first public concert since the song went viral appeared to draw in large crowds in North Carolina, according to several social media posts documenting the show. Anthony estimated on his social media that fans “filled 25 acres with cars for the first-ever gig!”

Anthony did not respond to a request for comment.

In the original YouTube video, Anthony is seen giving a passionate acoustic performance of the song — his first professionally recorded track — while standing outdoors before a wooded background.

“I’ve been sellin’ my soul workin’ all day, overtime hours for bulls--- pay, so I can sit out here and waste my life away, drag back home and drown my troubles away,” he sings. “It’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to for people like me and people like you.”

Other verses touch on taxes, social welfare systems and suicide rates. One line also appears to allude to Jeffrey Epstein's child sex trafficking activities.

In an introduction video uploaded to his YouTube channel a day before the song’s release, Anthony said that his political views tend to be “pretty dead center” and that both sides “serve the same master.”

“People are just sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said. “So yeah, I want to be a voice for those people.”

Following his viral fame, people online began pointing out that on his YouTube channel he has a a collection of 48 videos titled “videos to make your noggin get bigger.” Several of these videos promote 9/11 and Covid-19 conspiracy theories. 

The talking points laid out in his song's lyrics has made it wildly popular among conservatives, just weeks after Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” had similarly gone viral for its politically polarizing lyrics and music video.

Some commenters leaned into what they described as the “pro-American” sentiment of Anthony's song, while others wrote that they feel the song is relatable to anyone familiar with working-class struggles.

“And just like that you became the voice of 40 or 50 million working men,” read one comment that received 11,000 likes.

“You’ve captured the anger, the angst, and the disbelief of every hard-working, law-abiding, patriotic American who can’t believe what our country has become," wrote another YouTube commenter. "Thank you, Oliver Anthony, for this anthem.”

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., described the song as "the anthem of the forgotten Americans who truly support this nation and unfortunately the world with their hard earned tax dollars and incredibly hard work."

“This song represents my district and the people of America I know and love.”

Commentator Matt Walsh, who also promoted the song on X, uploaded a YouTube reaction video calling it “the protest song of our generation.”

YouTube commentator Benny Johnson and former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake also touted their support of Anthony.

Peeking through the thunderous enthusiasm from conservatives, however, are the voices criticizing his messaging, particularly Anthony’s lyric, "Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat, and the obese milkin’ welfare.”

Jonathan Mann, a musician known for having written a song a day for more than a decade, posted a response song titled “Fat People On Welfare (Are Not Your Enemy).”

“You diagnose yourself as a very old soul, yeah, but you haven’t quite grasped the basics yet of solidarity, no,” he sings. “You see, the powers that you rail against have only one hope to survive, and I hear it in the words you sing. It’s divide, divide, divide.”

Another X user pushed back on the political grievances laid out in the song.

“Tax money in America serves many purposes including: infrastructure, military, government, and yes social programs,” they wrote. “That said only a small percentage of money goes to welfare, but welfare is for everyone that needs it, not just fat lazy people who game the system … ”

Some suggested that the song’s lyrics may have prevented it from resonating with audiences across a wider political spectrum.

“‘Rich men North of Richmond’ has a lot of potential,” one X user tweeted. “But … someone needs to reach out to him and help him see those ‘obese milkin off welfare’ are from the same working class he is and attacking them only serves those same Rich men north of Richmond.”

In a post on social media on Saturday, Anthony thanked fans and called the outpouring of emails and messages “touching.”