The music video for American Oxygen was directed by Darren Craig, Jonathan Craven and Jeff Nicholas of the Uprising Creative. Nathan Scherrer served as a producer of the visual, while Isaac Bauman was the director of photography. Clark Eddy of Snipomatic was the editor of the video, while Ben Piety helped the line producing. Brandon Mendez served as a production designer, Mel Ottenberg designed Rihanna’s outfits, while Trevor Durtschi and Ntropic did the coloring.
It premiered on April 6, 2015 exclusively on Tidal. On April 16, 2015 t was uploaded on Rihanna’s official Vevo account on YouTube. Subsequently, Rihanna posted on her official Twitter account, “one of the most important music videos I have made to date”. The same day, it was made available for digital download on the iTunes Store.
The video begins with Rihanna standing on the stairs of a building on which wall is a big American flag. During the moment, shadows of a number of people are screened on the wall. Scenes are intercut with a moment from the inauguration of the first ever black American president, Barack Obama. As the song begins Rihanna is shown singing the lyrics in front of a giant American flag. Other scenes such as rising up the flag, peaceful protests and imagery of a typical American family are also shown.
Those are followed by inserts which include Martin Luther King Jr. and an American slave. Other scenes such as immigration in the country, the Apollo 11, the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute, Beatlemania, Occupy Wall Street, September 11 attacks and Black Lives Matter are also presented throughout the clip. At one point Rihanna is seen wearing a parachute suit while a big parachute is hanging on her back, struggling to crawl with it. It ends with Rihanna losing off her parachute. She looks in the camera “intently” and “tilts her head in a mildly defiant, almost challenging way”.