Rihanna simply cannot be pigeonholed. She has permeated the charts with reggae, ballads and dance hits. Many have publicly asked what could possibly be next for one of the world’s bestselling and intriguing female recording artists of all time? Her sonic, visual and lyrical response was unanticipated –– but certainly profound. Rihanna got deep; very deep.
American Oxygen, released on April 16 on Vevo, is the kind of recording that may rarely be played in a club. Some may even speak to the lack of rafter-rattling high notes, or twerk-inducing trap beats which the song’s writers (Rihanna is credited as one of the song’s four writers) and producers (Alex Da Kid and Kanye West) have clearly avoided. Yet this track may achieve what no other Rihanna single has ever been able to grasp to date –– a Grammy for Song/Record Of The Year.
American Oxygen is the kind of material that captures the imagination and spirit of the listener, and goes much further into one’s consciousness than the typical recording. Highly touting the American Dream tag line, the song encourages conversation upon first listen.
What exactly is America’s culture? Where does America truly stand in the world in which we live today? What did it take for this great nation to emerge as the world’s leading superpower? Upon whose shoulders do the leaders of the new America stand?
Where the song eludes the country’s historic moments, the video specifies and gives clarity. These include the good, the bad and the ugly; and frames shed light on space exploration, the contribution of immigration to the United States we know today –– a dynamic that enabled Rihanna to be a megastar.
Chilling moments include video footage of the late Martin Luther King resting comfortably in his casket, post-Katrina devastation, and the riots in Fergusson.
Did Rihanna make a wise decision to make the transition to become highly academic and politically profound at this stage of her career? The answer is yes; her audience has been growing with her for the past decade.
Her demographic is much more cultured at this stage in its growth, and is far removed from its adolescence, when the first few bars of Pon De Replay would be enough to send millions of Rihanna “navy” officers the world over into a frenzy.
Rihanna has become a woman –– a phenomenal woman –– and, in quite similar manner to the history-makers in her video, she realized that a change was necessary; and it has come at the perfect time.
(Ronnie Morris is president of Gold Coast records and director of the Barbados Music Awards. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)