A video of Anthony playing the song has amassed nearly 20 million views in less than 10 days on YouTube while critics have branded its lyrics as “offensive” and “fatphobic”.
In a lengthy post shared on Facebook on Thursday (17 August), Anthony reacted to suddenly landing at the top of the music charts.
“People in the music industry give me blank stares when I brush off $8m offers,” he wrote. “I don’t want 6 tour buses, 15 tractor trailers and a jet. I don’t want to play stadium shows, I don’t want to be in the spotlight.”
He continued: “I wrote the music I wrote because I was suffering with mental health and depression.
“These songs have connected with millions of people on such a deep level because they’re being sung by someone feeling the words in the very moment they were being sung. No editing, no agent, no bulls***. Just some idiot and his guitar. The style of music that we should have never gotten away from in the first place.”
The lyrics to “Rich Men North of Richmond” involve a number of complaints about politicians, welfare recipients and taxes. While some fans, including right-wing media personalities such as Dan Bongino, Matt Walsh, and country singer John Rich, have hailed the song as an ode to the American working class, others have criticised it for perpetuating fatphobia and the ”welfare queen” trope.
“Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothing to eat and the obese milking welfare,” goes one line. “Well God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds/ Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.”
“‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ is an archetypal example of right wing populist ideology,” one critic wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
“There’s a vague gesture against elites keeping working people down, but the alleged mechanism by which they are keeping them down is by giving their tax dollars to ‘undeserving’ poor people.”
In the rest of his post, Oliver shared details about his personal life after skeptics questioned his status as a purportedly working-class landowner.
“From 2014 until just a few days ago, I’ve worked outside sales in the industrial manufacturing world. My job has taken me all over Virginia and into the Carolinas, getting to know tens of thousands of other blue collar workers on job sites and in factories,” he wrote.
“In 2019, I paid $97,500 for the property and still owe about $60,000 on it. I am living in a 27’ camper with a tarp on the roof that I got off of Craigslist for $750.”
Casting a self-deprecating tone, he added: “There’s nothing special about me. I’m not a good musician, I’m not a very good person... I am sad to see the world in the state it’s in, with everyone fighting with each other... The Internet is a parasite, that infects the minds of humans and has their way with them.... When is enough, enough? When are we going to fight for what is right again?”
In a video shared to YouTube shortly after the song’s release, Anthony described himself as being “pretty dead centre down the aisle on politics, and always have [been]”.
In a comment piece for The Independent this week, Louis Chilton wrote: “There is an irony too in the fact that the ‘new world’ Anthony bemoans in the chorus of ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ is entirely responsible for his overnight success: where else could he have surged to such swift popularity, but along the internet’s algorithmic rapids?
“Conservatives have celebrated his song as a call for unity, a work of blue-collar solidarity – but its sudden popularity is still rooted in the bitter factionalism that continues to rot American politics. It has become a hit not because of its lyrical grace or musical exceptionalism, but because of what it represents.”