Photo: AP

Where were you when you first heard the pure, fragile voice of 11-year-old yodeler Mason Ramsey? I was returning from a full day of blogging, worn down by the years I had aged during a single subway ride, when my roommate showed me the viral video on her phone.

When Ramsey yodels, you listen. Is that because all videos are autoplay now? Yes. It’s also because of the way he sings, “lo-e-o-e-ohnesome,” as if this sweet summer child could possibly understand heartbreak. Regardless, this boot-tapping boy has gone fully viral, garnering millions of views on YouTube, which led to a live performance in front of a gigantic screaming crowd at Coachella, and, of course, an interview with Ellen DeGeneres.


But Ramsey, who is also often dubbed “Walmart Boy,” is not the only one who’s benefited from his newfound fame. The original video was filmed in a Walmart in Harrisburg, IL, and the multi-billion dollar company, which is owned by the wealthiest family in the world, is reaaaaalllllyyyyy capitalizing on that fact.

After Ramsey blew up, Walmart decided to put on another concert at, you guessed it, Walmart:

Even just that announcement generated an outpouring of goodwill for the retailer that has long been plagued with a bad public image because it is a bad private company:


Of course Walmart feels that way too, since people are in some cases driving hours just to get to their store, hear a few yodels, and perhaps stock up on groceries for the week. As expected, Ramsey’s encore performance drew huge crowds:


When Ramsey went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, DeGeneres asked him, “Do you always sing at Walmart?” Ramsey answered: “Yeah, because that’s the only store we’ve got,” to laughs from the crowd. Is this a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that Walmart has systematically put smaller grocery stores and other mom-and-pop markets out of business across the country? Is Ramsey, trapped in the throes of some devil’s deal he made with the Walton family, trying to save us by giving us all the clues? Or is he trying to keep the public from finding out that there actually are many other stores Harrisburg residents can patronize that are not Walmart?

Harrisburg, Illinois
Screenshot: Google Maps

I’m not necessarily saying that Ramsey is a small robot created by our corporate overlords to project a more “homegrown” image of Walmart, a chain that, strangely enough, has a decade-long record of strategically engaging in PR campaigns to help cover up their exploitation of workers. I’m just asking questions here.

Clio Chang is a staff writer at Splinter.

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