Newcomer to celebrity Oliver Anthony didn’t so much jump into the hot seat as fell into it — and the chair has been more than a little uncomfortable, by his own admission.
Anthony’s song “Rich Men North of Richmond” seemed to take the entire world by storm this summer, his dynamic performance pushed to viral heights by a populist messaging network that claimed the song’s message for MAGA and tried to appropriate Anthony’s indignation as a rallying cry against the elite.
It was all going gangbusters with the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ set when Anthony went on social media and said that MAGA had it wrong — his song wasn’t about what they thought it was, he said.
Instead, Anthony revealed, “Rich Men North of Richmond” was a criticism of just the kind of out of touch politicians who were now using it to rally the base. Oops.
Oliver’s castigation of those who used his song as a weapon, even when it was really pointed at them, didn’t sit well with conservatives who got caught doing it. Predictably they got mad and turned on him — he who had never asked to be the spokesperson for their anger in the first place.
Conservative influencer and Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk is among those now ripping into Anthony — and getting blowback for it too. When Anthony canceled a concert after learning additional fees would hit ticket buyers, Kirk portrayed him as holier than thou and ignorant of the ways of the business world. Kirk also asserted that Anthony’s cancelation selfishly took money out of people’s pockets who would have worked the show.
So let me get this straight…— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) September 15, 2023
Oliver Anthony agrees to a contract where he’s paid $120,000, but then gets mad at $99 ticket prices and blames the venue for a deal he agreed to…then cancels the event?
Who does he think pays for his fee? Or for venue security, insurance, and…
But readers mostly weren’t having it this time. After all, Kirk wasn’t taking aim at some insufficiently isolationist RINOs (Republican in Name Only) like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan. This was Kirk going after Oliver Anthony, who fans pretty much feel has been acting honorably.
As one responder wrote: “I’ve seen a lot of bad takes but ‘Oliver Anthony is a sell out grifter because he canceled a lucrative show (fully refunded) after learning fans were charged $100 per ticket’ and then booking a larger venue for lower ticket prices is definitely up there.”
I’ve seen a lot of bad takes but “Oliver Anthony is a sell out grifter because he canceled a lucrative show (fully refunded) after learning fans were charged $100 per ticket” and then booking a larger venue for lower ticket prices is definitely up there— Banana Republic Justice Swan 🍌 (@TheWuhanClan) September 15, 2023
Another replied simply: “Oh this is low Charlie. Stop it.”
There were responses that did knock Anthony for his naivete, and one questioned — without knowledge of the details — about the honorability of reneging on a contract.
But more were sympathetic:
I think we need to give him a break…..he was absolutely an over night sensation in every sense of the word! He has had problems in the past …he is trying to process all this attention…I’m sure it’s difficult for him to understand the fine print…he has a talent..let’s leave…— gladys kravitz (@gladysk06040782) September 15, 2023
The blowback Kirk gets in trying to knock Anthony is a reminder of a simple fact: Many people who appreciated Anthony’s song didn’t appreciate it as an anthem of MAGA disenchantment — they just liked it. It spoke to them. Like most songs that make a mark, “Rich Men North of Richmond” communicated something personal, resonated with listeners’ lives in a more meaningful way than political slogans ever do. (That’s why politicians borrow from the arts, to showcase authenticity — exactly what happened with Anthony’s hit. )