The performance of Oliver Anthony in “Rich Men North of Richmond” garners attention and creates controversy.

The performance of Oliver Anthony in “Rich Men North of Richmond” garners attention and creates controversy.


Oliver Anthony, performing to a packed audience in Glasgow, shares that many may not have a visual of Virginia. However, his music is centered on his home and bears a striking resemblance to that of the current location. Last year, the rising country singer, who goes by Christopher Lunsford, made history as an unsigned artist reaching the number one spot in the US with his hit song “Rich Men North of Richmond.” The track, which criticizes both political elites and those on welfare, embodies a quintessential populist sentiment. Interestingly, the tune has been embraced by Republicans, much to Lunsford’s dismay. Instead of uncovering Lunsford’s political views (he claims to be nonpartisan), the response to the song highlights society’s desire to impose their own beliefs onto popular art and use it as a symbol.

However, it is evident why Lunsford is a perfect blank slate. He resides in Virginia without being connected to the grid, has limited exposure to performing live, and during a set, he reads a Bible verse from his phone and proclaims that “all the songs you hear on Spotify were recorded on this.” His music has a raw and robust quality, enhanced by the addition of a double bass and acoustic guitar to complement the twang of his resonator guitar. His vocals are genuine, with a clear tone that adds conviction to emotional tracks like “Cobwebs and Cocaine” and the reluctant drinking song, “I’ve Got to Get Sober.”

The reception is consistently enthusiastic, but the last 30 minutes are peculiar considering Lunsford’s stated dislike of politics. Doggonnit lightly criticizes both Republicans and Democrats, but also mentions a strange conspiracy about governments forcing people to eat bugs to combat climate change – which could be interpreted in different ways, if Lunsford didn’t then go on a rant against “every excuse for being environmentally friendly” that harms working Americans. Before performing “Rich Men”, he jokes that Joe Biden “prefers them under eighteen”. While Lunsford may shy away from overtly political topics, it’s clear that these comments could easily be interpreted as coded messages or used as such by nefarious individuals. It’s a shame, as he clearly has talent and passion, but things are rarely straightforward in 2024.