You can't have been sentient and awake in this country over the last three weeks, and not been exposed to the instant megafame of Oliver Anthony on the basis of his viral populist anthem, "Rich Men North of Richmond," which is currently sitting at [checks the numbers] 49 million views on YouTube. And that doesn't even count the tens of millions of hits on all the "Reactions to" videos from other content providers.
As a refresher, here's Francis' post about Anthony - real name Christopher Anthony Lunsford, as he adopted his also 6-foot-3, lefthanded Ginger grandfather's name when he started recording music - making a surprise appearance at Joe Rogan's comedy club in Austin:
Well the reason for the club appearance was Anthony was in town to do Rogan's podcast. Because when you hit his level of name recognition, you get to skip all the lesser podcasts and cut the line over all the other A-listers and go right to the JRE. I haven't listened to much of it yet, but did catch these first 15 minutes, and I highly recommend you give it a shot:
If anyone judged Oliver Anthony from hearing him play steel guitar and sing for 3-minutes and came away convinced he's some unsophisticated backwoods bumpkin, you'd better check your snobbery because you've got another thing coming.
Fame is hard for just about everybody. Especially the kind of instant fame this guy has achieved. But he comes across at uniquely equipped to handle it. Almost born to it. Whether it's ripping the politicians on either side who are trying to glom onto the message of his song like it belongs to them:
Or laughing with Rogan about the insanity of internet fame [2:05 mark] :
"You see comments and feedback from people, both overwhelmingly positive that maybe you wouldn't get in a normal conversation, but also overwhelmingly negative too. You know? People just use that as a vent. To take whatever seething hatred they have inside them and use it. 'Oh, I'm gonna get that guy!'"
I don't know if I can ever recall a better description of the 1s and 0s on social media. Both good and bad. And it's remarkable how easily he takes neither of them a damned bit seriously. Especially in a world where social media is a leading cause of depression and rich, influential people commonly use the online abuse they get as both a shield and an excuse for all their misbehavior.
And they also have a laugh about how his music has been the subject of a raging national debate. Left and right. On socials, YouTube news programs, the cable news networks, the Republican debates. To the point he's getting lectured by Dwight Shrute on how he should've written his own song:
Anyway, watch the interview for yourself. It's actually refreshing to see someone who got so famous overnight and has found himself in the middle of the Culture War be so chill about it all. Seeing anyone that grounded is rare. And it's to be celebrated.
Personally, I've liked the song from the first time I heard it. It's a powerful statement about working class people getting screwed over. It's not Left vs. Right. It's about someone who feels powerless speaking out to power. Including a vague reference to the people on Jeffrey Epstein's guest list who've gotten away with all their pervy misdeeds. I think it's the kind of thing Woody Guthrie would've sang about. Bob Dylan, maybe. Or Springsteen back in his "Nebraska" album days.
You might disagree, and that's fine. But I respect any artist who puts his work out there, doesn't explain it, apologize, or make excuses for the parts that an actor who played Assistant to the Regional Manager of a local paper supply branch find objectionable. When you create a thing, the best approach is to say, "Here is my thing," and leave it at that. Let people react to it how they may. And if they don't like it, or if they hate you for having created it, they're free to make their own thing.
But in Oliver Anthony's case, he clearly struck a chord with an enormous amount of the population. If you object to it, you might want to ask yourself why.