Rihanna Invokes Civil Rights Movement in ‘American Oxygen’ Video
Rihanna's "American Oxygen" video is her most political release to date. Splicing together historical footage of the civil rights movement, 9/11, and the protests that rocked Ferguson, Alabama, this summer, the visual, which debuted Thursday (April 16) is a cutting reflection of America's promise and its often contradictory reality.
A brisk change of pace from her last single, the trap-pop stripper anthem "Bitch Better Have My Money," "American Oxygen" unfurls with a slow knock. The Barbadian singer opines, "Breathe out, breathe in / American oxygen / Every breath I breathe / Chasin' this American Dream / We sweat for a nickel and a dime / Turn it into an empire..." as images of the World Trade Towers burning, tiny JFK Jr. saluting at his father's funeral, and Martin Luther King, Jr. being laid to rest flash onscreen. Rihanna appears at different points in front of an American flag, a national monument, and in an Air Force jumpsuit, recalling President George W. Bush's 2003 Mission Accomplished speech.
She first debuted the song at the March Madness Music Festival in Indiana earlier this month, where she criticized the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. "Who's feeling these new bull---- laws they're trying to pass around here?" she goaded the crowd before launching into her song "Live Your Life."
"American Oxygen" is believed to appear on the singer's yet-to-be-titled eighth studio album, affectionately referred to as R8. She's described the LP's sound to be "timeless," and it will most likely also house "Bitch Better Have My Money," as well as Rihanna's collaboration with Paul McCartney and Kanye West, "FourFiveSeconds."
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