After debuting “American Oxygen” at the March Madness Music Festival, Rihanna dropped the patriotic music video for her new single on Tidal, the streaming music service she co-owns along with more than a dozen other music megastars. The video has a quasi-time capsule feel, juxtaposing patriotic imagery with archival footage of the United States’ most noteworthy historical events. The singer performs her new single alone in front of the backdrop of an American flag.
Like its American Dream-grasping lyrics, the “American Oxygen” video similarly gazes inwards towards the nation, resulting in an experience that’s the visual equivalent of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The 1969 moon landing, the Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics, 9/11, Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral procession and Beatlemania are among the many historical events that fill the screen.
“American Oxygen” also interjects video of the protests that have tested the strength of the nation over the past decades, from Occupy Wall Street and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri to the UC Davis pepper-spraying incident and civil rights marches.
With Rihanna’s eighth studio album on the horizon, the singer is displaying a social and political consciousness that’s been missing from most of her past discography. During her March Madness Festival performance in Indianapolis last weekend, the singer used her headlining gig to slam the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Who’s feeling these new bullshit laws that they’re trying to pass over here? I say, ‘Fuck that shit,'” Rihanna told the crowd, inciting chants of the same. “We’re just living our motherfucking lives.”