5 Songs Oliver Anthony Released Before “Rich Men North of Richmond” Went Viral

Several country artists have received surprising viral spotlights in 2023, for both favorable and unfavorable reasons. From the memetic resurgence of “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd to “Try That In A Small Town” by Jason Aldean, the year proved to be big for mainstream crossovers. The Atlantic confirmed how this has translated on the charts, reporting a 20 percent increase in country songs present on the Billboard Hot 100, with three taking the top three spots in early August.

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The biggest of these surprise successes, though, was 31-year-old singer/songwriter Christopher Anthony Lunsford, better known by his stage name Oliver Anthony. The artist’s song, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” went viral after the YouTube channel radiowv posted a live performance. The song expresses his frustrations on behalf of the working class, stating he works too long for too little pay. Anthony has been criticized for directing part of the blame at the wrong individuals and has also been called out for having incongruent politics in interviews and beyond, allowing the song to be pinned as left-wing, and right-wing, at the same time.

Before the controversy, Anthony released sixteen singles as an independent artist, beginning in 2022. He still has yet to sign to a label, despite his smash success. These are five songs that led up to the release of “Rich Men North of Richmond.”

1. “Ain’t Gotta Dollar” (2022)

“Ain’t Gotta Dollar” was one of Oliver Anthony’s first-ever releases, alongside “Rich Man’s Gold.” Very active on his YouTube channel, Anthony posts covers, vlogs, and original works—this includes the recording of “Ain’t Gotta Dollar,” from which he pulled the audio to post onto streaming services. In the video, he sits outside with the woods as his backdrop, guitar in his hands, singing into his camera microphone. The outdoor ambiance makes it into the recording, accompanying the lyrics about day-to-day, minimalistic life.

2. “Rich Man’s Gold” (2022)

Following the same visual format as “Ain’t Gotta Dollar,” “Rich Man’s Gold” slows the pace, and is guided by the organic twang of his guitar playing. The song once again comments on his financial frustrations, contrasting them with the ease and luxury the wealthy elite have.

You won’t born, to just to pay bills and die
You wont born to just pay bills and die
All you need is a dog, a shack with a creek in the back, And a good woman to hold
You don’t need that Rich Man’s Gold

3. “Hell On Earth” (2022)

“Hell On Earth” addresses the commuter’s perspective on working-class life, lamenting waking up early every day to go to work only to be late because of traffic caused by others trying to do the same. He calls it a manmade version of hell and wishes to strip his life down to the bare necessities. The natural ambiance comes from the crackling of a wood fire, adding to the “hellish” feeling.

4. “Always love you (like a good ole dog)” (2023)

The camaraderie between man and dog is a reoccurring motif in Anthony’s work, as he has two German Shepards of his own. This ballad, however, is a love song, comparing his relationship to the close-knit, unconditional bond between someone and their dog, to how much he loves “the crack of dawn.”

5. “I’ve Got to Get Sober” (2023)

Perhaps another of his most popular songs, “I’ve Got to Get Sober” is about just that —the journey towards sobriety. He lays everything out on the table, stating that it is difficult for him to write uplifting songs about simple, yet content, lives when the weight of the world deeply affects him. He copes with that stress through drinking but realizes it is an issue.

And I’ll go on a whim, start writin’ the hymn that sounds so sweet
But the troubles and the sin of the world that we’re in
Knock me back off my feet

I’ve gotta get sober, I’ve gotta start livin’ right
And I don’t know how it’s gonna go
But it ain’t gon’ happen tonight
So pour ’em down strong ’til I drown
And if I wake up tomorrow when that sun comes back around I’ll be wishin’ I was sober

Photo courtesy Youtube

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