Rihanna Breathes Life Into The ‘New America’ with ‘American Oxygen’


The American Dream. We all have one. And whether yours includes a six-figure salary and a mansion on a hill or just a simple cabin in the woods and a minivan, we all cling to the hope of reaching our dream one day. It’s what we live for, fight for, work for, and for some, even die for.

Rihanna’s new song “American Oxygen” takes the idea of the traditional American Dream to a whole new level, combining video clips of moments in American history that have shaped what we have become as a country and who we have become as a society.

“American Oxygen” is the brainchild of X Ambassadors members Sam Harris and Alex Da Kid. They worked on the song for a year, writing and rewriting lyrics and melodies. Harris said that one of his biggest inspirations for the song was Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”.  There were lots of big-name artists interested in recording the song, but ultimately Harris chose to work with Rihanna. The song appears on her latest album R8.

“Rihanna had the idea to turn it into this song about an immigrant story, coming to this country as an outsider.” Harris said in the Billboard article. Much of the song does represent what an outsider would believe the American Dream to be…Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, Babe Ruth hitting a home run, Wall Street.

Wall Street

Rihanna, Harris and Da Kid took things to the next level by adding images of the pieces of American history that are not as grandiose, such as: immigrants climbing over the wall from Mexico , the Ferguson uprising, the KKK,  the twin towers burning during 9/11, footage of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and funeral. All of these things we as Americans face every day in pursuit of the American Dream.

The song’s lyrics: ‘I say, you see, this is the American Dream. Young girl, hustlin’ on the other side of the ocean. You can be anything at all. America, America. I say you see, just close your eyes and breathe.’ seem to speak to the number of illegal immigrants who flee to America every year in the hopes of finding a “better life”. Then the song goes on to say,  ‘We sweat for a nickel and a dime, turn it into an empire. Breathe in this feeling. American Oxygen, ‘  which makes the pursuit of the American Dream seem hopeless in some ways to those of us who already live here. Both lines speak to the fact that yes, we are the “Land of Opportunity” but everything comes with a price. While America is a great  in many ways, it is not a perfect country.

911 tragedy

In researching this song, I came across a number of comments on message boards where people seemed confused as to exactly what message the song was trying to convey. One person writes: “Mixed feelings about this. Love Rihanna’s music and for the most part, like this song.  America is not perfect, but it still offers many opportunities for success….she’s here raking in the bucks vs in her home country…..like the song says….”We sweat for a nickel and a dime. Turn it into an empire” which is exactly what she’s doing.”

 This interpretation seems to be spot on. We aren’t a perfect country, but we are a great country. Our citizens are presented with so many opportunities that citizens of other countries spend their entire lives dreaming about. We have people risking their lives to come to our country in order to create better lives for their families by giving their children opportunities that they were never given.

Furgeson Illinois

When Harris was asked about his interpretation of the song he responded, “…there’s pride to living here in this country. This country is great and has the potential to be something really, really incredible, but there are a lot of problems that we don’t acknowledge and it’s important to shed light on both those things. And if you can do that in a song, that’s the best.”

What do you think? Is the American Dream all it’s cracked up to be or do you believe that it has fallen by the wayside? What was your interpretation of Rihanna’s “American Oxygen” video? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Teresa Warner is a book junkie and self-proclaimed pun master. Always one for a good play on words, Teresa has been writing since she was 12 years old. She enjoys creating thought-provoking pieces that ask the tough questions but also loves a bit of light-hearted humor. Growing up as the youngest in a large family, Teresa used writing as a way to set herself apart from others. A wife and mother of 7, Teresa enjoys spending time with her family and encouraging others to reach for their dreams. Teresa is a graduate of The University of Toledo and holds a bachelors degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in Cardiac Rehabilitation. She works from home as a freelance writer and virtual assistant. To learn more about Teresa and her work, visit her website at http://teresawarner.com.