Rihanna's R8 campaign seems to consist solely of the Diva taking risk after risk, breaking away from any kind of status quo established previously.
First we had lead single FourFiveSeconds being folksy, generally all kinds of different and having a significant chunk sung by a rapper many were turned off by. That was followed up by B***h Better Have My Money, which though more familiar in style for the diva, had profanity in the title that was repeated often in chorus. Hardly a way to gain radio favor. And now we have single three, American Oxygen, which on hearing alone sounded like a track pandering to a nation she, and most her listeners, aren't even citizens of.
That was until the contrasting, powerful and political imagery- which shows America's troubled past and present in all its glory- was debuted in its accompanying video. (Note to Tidal, this was not the song to hold to ransom with your service.)
So is Rihanna actually attacking the nation with this song instead of praising it? Not exactly; it's all grayer than that. The point she seems to be making is that there is a spin attached to most western countries that is propagated across the globe- such as "anybody can make it in America"/ "land of the free"- that may ring true for a minority (like Rihanna herself). But it isn't the reality on the front line, where the playing field is anything but even and life can be brutal. It's an acknowledgement many have cried out for from their idols in the entertainment world, particularly during the current spate of racially charged cop killings in America.
A ballsy move by Ri, no doubt, but could it backfire? It's almost a cert to offend flag-hags and right wingers (not that I think they buy her music anyway). However the casual listener, who is big part of her market, are the ones she needs to be wary of losing. They aren't here for social commentary, they just want catchy tunes. Still, I think the song and the visuals carry a deeper message that hopefully won't be ignored in the potential controversy: inequality and strife knows no boarders.
It's been a long while since I've seen a mainstream artist come out with such a strong statement in a video, but damn Rihanna did that.