Oliver Anthony’s viral hit ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making him the first artist to ever debut atop the list without any prior chart history.
“Rich Men North of Richmond,” the breakout hit from Oliver Anthony Music that went viral only two weeks ago, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs chart. That achievement makes the singer-songwriter the first artist to launch at the top of the list with no prior chart history.
According to data from Luminate, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” officially released on August 11, clocked 17.5 million streams and sold 147,000 downloads in the week ending August 17. The song also racked up 553,000 radio airplay audience impressions, the bulk on country stations, despite not receiving promotion on radio. Further, the song debuted at No. 1 on the Digital Song Sales chart and No. 4 on Streaming Songs.
Oliver Anthony — real name Christopher Anthony Lunsford, a former factory worker from Farmville, Virginia — chose his stage name to honor his grandfather. His music first drew attention online after posting a video on the RadioWV YouTube account of him singing the now-viral song and playing his Gretsch guitar.
“Rich Men North of Richmond” has drawn both praise and criticism from both sides politically, with lyrics about “the obese milkin’ welfare” and “your dollar taxed to no end.” Anthony says he sits “pretty dead center down the aisle on politics” and is “sad to see the world in the state it’s in, with everyone fighting with each other.”
“The hopelessness and frustration of our times resonate in the response to this song,” Anthony tells Billboard. “The song itself is not anything special, but the people who have supported it are incredible and deserve to be heard.”
Meanwhile, Oliver Anthony’s co-manager, Draven Riffe, who produced “Rich Men North of Richmond” and also co-founded RadioWV, where the song first debuted, tells Billboard “there was not a whole lot of planning involved” in its release.
“We just knew if we got the video out there, people were going to love the song, and it would resonate with a lot of folks. There wasn’t some big, massive planning team around this. I had a few friends who helped us push the song out there,” says Riffe. “We all coordinated, and Oliver’s following (coordinated) as well; we just tried to push it out there all at once with our little group of friends, and that’s how it happened.”
Oliver Anthony is the first artist to ever debut atop the Hot 100 without having first appeared on any Billboard chart in any form. He is only the sixth artist to debut a first solo Hot 100 entry at No. 1, after Zayn, Baauer, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia, and Clay Aiken.
Underwood, Fantasia, and Aiken debuted following the season finales of “American Idol” in 2005, 2004, and 2003, respectively, when each artist won their season (or, in the case of Aiken, finished second). Zayn’s debut solo track “Pillowtalk” topped the charts in 2016 after he was already in the cultural zeitgeist as a member of One Direction. Baauer’s viral sensation “Harlem Shake” debuted a week after first appearing on dance/electronic chart rankings.
Oliver Anthony is also a rare unsigned artist to top the Hot 100. Lisa Loeb became the first such artist in 1994 with her hit “Stay (I Missed You),” — but that song was also released from RCA Records on the Reality Bites soundtrack. Shortly afterward, Loeb signed with Geffen Records.
“We are working on a full (lineup) of shows with bigger accommodations in the near future,” Anthony recently wrote on Facebook. “Everyone in the ‘industry’ is rushing me into signing something, but we just want to take things slow right now. I appreciate your patience.”