SWEAT STAINED REVIEW: CONFESSIONS OF A BLUE COLLAR MISFIT
Punching Down Is For Spineless, Weak-Minded, Lazy Thinking, Yellow-Bellied Cowards
By Dan Denton
Man. Another “blue collar” artist done went viral, and as often happens, being a blue collar artist myself, I started getting messages asking me what I thought about him.
I’m talking about Oliver Anthony, the viral Tik-Tok sensation, and his song about Rich men North of Richmond. Admittedly, I’d only seen a few brief clips of parts of the song, and I hadn’t given it much thought afterwards. I joke about this a lot with folks, but the Tik-Tok algorithm knows what I like, and for the most part my For You Page is full of spoken word poetry, RV life and hacks, and soccer mom dump trucks. I’m not on Tik-Tok looking for depth. I’m there looking to distract my noisy brain before I tuck it into bed at night.
After a few messages from friends about this Anthony cat, and after another local artist friend telling me to go listen to verse two of that viral song, I finally gave in to viral pop peer pressure, and looked the fucker up. Dude can sing. He’s got pipes. And his song started off hitting my blue collar heart right in its sweet spot. Overtime hours and bullshit pay? Oh yeah. Tell me more my troubadour friend. Rich politicians fucking shit up? Hell yeah. Preach. And the motherfucker had me hooked, right up until I heard the right wing, Q-Anon shout out about minors. Then I got pissed as soon as I heard the word obese, and the lines that followed next had me spittin’ and fightin’ mad.
Like everything in life, I never look at anything from one direction, and I try not to let the world, the people in it, and damn sure not the media, influence what I think or feel. It’s hard, but if being an outlaw and freethinker was easy, there’d be more of us.
So, I started looking up more about Oliver Anthony, reading articles about him, finding out things about his life story, and going down a rabbit hole. I’m back now. And I’m ready to give you the full report. That cat, while no doubt surviving a life full of obstacle and struggle, is completely and entirely full of shit.
He might have been astroturfed, something I’d never heard of, but is apparently when a music industry influencer coordinates a fake viral grass roots music moment. Or something. I’m not a music critic, just a big fan.
He says he spent the last several years in “industrial sales,” traveling all around and rubbing shoulders with blue collar workers everyday, so he’s not really blue collar. He is, but he ain’t. It’s like when I worked on the assembly line at the Jeep Plant in Toledo, and the company engineers in khakis and polo shirts, is that a class in engineering school? Do they teach them how to starch khakis? I’ve never seen a group of humans, and the engineering team at Jeep was chock full of fucking diversity too, but they all wore the crispiest khakis I’ve ever seen. But those engineers were forever arguing with us on the assembly line about what their computers and software said was the best way to build a car. Sure, those engineers, many of them barely older than my children, and fresh out of college with a masters degree, they can claim to work in a factory, and they do, but they don’t. Oliver Anthony is that kind of fraud.
Second, fuck that guy. I spent my entire childhood on food stamps, and my mother is 5 foot tall, and even if she and I have never had a good relationship, I’ll still fight a motherfucker that talks shit about her, ya know? In our family of four kids, with two parents, one that couldn’t read and worked for minimum wage at a grocery store, and the other beleaguered by trauma and mental health to a point of needing 24 hour confinement in state hospitals for much of my childhood, we never got fudge rounds. We got government cheese and powdered milk. We got food bank oatmeal cookies, and three pound bags of no name cereal that you could only stomach with double the powder for your milk, and a cup of sugar.
Plus, as a lover of lil Debbie snack cakes, fudge rounds are like the seventh best snack in the lineup. You got Zebra Cakes. Iced Honey Buns. Donut Sticks. Cosmic Brownies. And none of them come in a fucking bag, you yellow bellied moron, Oliver. They come as individual servings, or in a box, and they’ve doubled in price since COVID hit. Hey, you can take a boy out of the projects, but that hungry childhood will forever fuel a sweet tooth only lil Debbie and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups can soothe.
The fucked up thing, is Oliver Anthony is the dude’s stage name, a shout out to his “Appalachian roots.” Excuse me? There’s no such thing as an authentic Appalachian artist that’s going to punch down on welfare. Get the fuck out of here with that fake ass Appalachian appropriation you fuck. No Appalachian artist worth their salt would pick a fight with lil Debbie.
More fucked up, is there are UAW Jeep workers in Toledo right now that are on food stamps. Despite record breaking profits year after year for a decade, UAW Jeep workers entry level pay is $15.78 an hour, and a family of four with an income below $3k a month qualifies for SNAP assistance. How shameful, with a profit well over 100 billion dollars in the last decade, and a CEO making $25 million a year, they have dozens of employees on food stamps.
How shameful, that no doubt many of the blue collar workers Anthony rubbed shoulders with have been, or work with families on SNAP assistance.
It’s the classic capitalist distraction. We work ourselves to death knowing that the politicians and 1% rich, and CEO’s and Wall Street are fucking us, so we get mad at those living just below us on the economic scale, convinced the crumbs they’re being handed are the cause of our ever shrinking piece of the financial pie, all while the 1% continues to rub their record fortunes in our work worn faces.
If Oliver Anthony were a true working class hero, an authentic one, he’d be singing songs about the plight of the working poor, about how nearly three quarters of SNAP participants have jobs, and many of them are employed by Fortune 500 companies.
One last note. I won’t take any of the “minors on an island” bullshit serious, until all the scared little proud boys hiding behind machine guns start getting pissed about a certain church. A big church. A certain big church that’s almost big enough to be the worlds largest religion. They have their own city. There’s a whole mountain of evidence about minors being ignored by politicians. That’s all I’m saying. Close that church down and we’ll really be getting somewhere in the fight to start protecting our children.
If you see that Anthony cat, tell ‘em something for me. Tell him I’m with him. Fuck the overtime, and rich cats in D.C. and I get it. You’ve been through some struggles. But damn it, none of your struggles were caused by any of the women on welfare. I promise. She had it harder than you did, and if you talk about my mother one more goddamned time, you’ll be singing behind a fat lip for the next week.
Dan Denton is a lifelong factory worker and former UAW Chief Steward turned full time writer. His next book The Dead and The Desperate is available on preorder from Roadside Press. It’s a novel that’s full of factory workers on food stamps.