Oliver Anthony Represents Everything Mainstream Nashville Has Lost

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I’m a country music junkie. Of course, I had the luxury of growing up during its golden era.

There really is no comparison to ’90s country music. From Brooks & Dunn and Reba to Shenandoah and Blackhawk, every song is an absolute banger.

But the best thing about the country music of yesteryear is that it was real. The artists sang about love and loss, heartache and happiness, peace and regret. Even 30 years later, those tunes still tug at the heartstrings.

I don’t know about you, but nothing gets me in my feels faster than a George Strait love song.

Oliver Anthony Represents Everything Mainstream Country Music Has Lost
You may be cool. But you’ll never be Alan Jackson in the “Gone Country” music video cool. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

And mainstream country music has lost that magic.

Sure, some of it’s pretty catchy. And I’m certainly not above jamming to some Morgan Wallen while I sit endlessly in Nashville traffic.

But the soul is gone. Somehow, we went from “three chords and the truth” to two dorks and some autotune.

They tried to warn us back in 1999 with “Murder on Music Row.” But we didn’t listen.

Oliver Anthony Represents Everything Mainstream Nashville Has Lost
Tourists wait in line to enter Luke Bryan’s Broadway bar. (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

Now, even Nashville itself has lost its identity. Our once vibey little town with honky tonks and local dives has turned into the Mecca of drunken bachelorette parties, vomiting tourists, luxury high-rise condos and mega-sized corporate bars backed by celebrity namesakes.

Want a drink? That’ll be $22 — but it comes with a souvenir cup!

That’s capitalism, baby, and I get it. But it doesn’t change the fact that I long for a simpler time. A time when I could drink a cold Miller Lite bottle on a barstool and listen to someone pick a guitar without waiting in line for 45 minutes and paying $50 to park.

But I know I’m not alone. There are a plenty of people out there just like me.

And that’s why Oliver Anthony became an overnight sensation.

Oliver Anthony Brings Country Back to Country Music

Anthony’s song “Rich Men North of Richmond” went mega viral last weekend. It’s an ode to the working-class American just trying to get by while the fat cats in Washington rule with an iron fist.

And he sings it with a tone so soulful it could raise Merle Haggard from the dead.

He’s a breath of fresh air for country music. And that’s why he skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Anthony revealed he turned down an $8 million offer from a record label.

“I don’t want 6 tour buses, 15 tractor trailers and a jet,” he wrote. “I don’t want to play stadium shows, I don’t want to be in the spotlight.”

The Farmville, Va., resident is just as authentic as his lyrics. And a big Nashville record contract would change all of that.

Just ask country music star John Rich, who knows a thing or two about the industry.

“All the major record labels in Nashville are falling over themselves to lure Oliver Anthony,” Rich tweeted. “The irony is, if he would’ve been signed to a label when he wrote this song, none of us would have EVER heard it! His song fried their brains. Their greed is overriding their wokeness.”

And he’s absolutely right.

Give Anthony one year in Nashville, and his heartfelt, blue-collar anthems would turn into bops about cold beers, Daisy Dukes and pickup trucks.

To be clear, there are still artists out there who sing from the soul. Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Colter Wall and Turnpike Troubadors are just a few that come to mind. But they sure don’t enjoy the backing of the gigantic corporate marketing machine.

Because in mainstream Nashville, the lyrics and the message don’t matter — the bottom line does. And these record companies want to capitalize on Anthony’s fame while also taking away the very qualities that made him famous in the first place.

Remember how quickly CMT pulled Jason Aldean’s music video as soon as some folks on the Left didn’t like it? Exactly.

Oliver Anthony Represents Everything Mainstream Nashville Has Lost

“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,” Anthony wrote on Facebook.

“No editing, no agent, no bullshit. Just some idiot and his guitar. The style of music that we should have never gotten away from in the first place.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Oliver. Minus the idiot part.

Follow Amber Harding on X: @TheAmberHarding

Written by Amber Harding

Amber is a Midwestern transplant living in Murfreesboro, TN. She spends most of her time taking pictures of her dog, explaining why real-life situations are exactly like "this one time on South Park," and being disappointed by the Tennessee Volunteers.

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