Rihanna cracks from the pressure of pretending to feel in the brittle “What Now.”
An addled piano opens the single, setting a searching tone. She pores through her makeup, deciding between the colors. She swallows and coughs, choking down her tears. She applies her mascara, dabbing at her eyes. On her trembling mouth, she puts on lipstick. After the third time of wiping off the lines around her mouth, she slams the lipstick down, slumping onto the bathroom floor, wailing into her hands. She is supposed to be over it. But she’s still not herself. (“I've been ignoring this big lump in my throat/I shouldn't be crying/Tears were for the weaker days, I'm stronger now/Or so I say, but something's missing.”)
In the pre-chorus, she gets up from the bathrooom floor and reaches for some tissue. She looks into the mirror, seeing her drawn face. From inside the mirror, her frown twists into a smirk. It raises its balled bands to its face, mocking her cying. She is tempted to smash the mirror with her fist. (“Whatever it is, it feels like it's laughing at me/Through the glass of a two-sided mirror/Whatever it is, it's just laughing at me/And I just wanna scream.”)
In the chorus, she tries to convince herself it’s a down day for her. She’ll feel better tomorrow. There isn’t any need to call her doctor. (“What now, I just can't figure it out/What now, I guess/I'll just wait it out, wait it out/What now, what now.”)
She checks her cellphone, reading her Facebook. Her boyfriend just posted a picture of himself at the basketball game. He’s a really great guy. He showed her that real love is possible. Nonetheless, she moves onto the next post on her feed without an affectionate smile. Two years, she was looking for a guy who was relationship person and he was it. However, if he broke up with her tomorrow, she would be able to continue on as usual. She has gotten used to the pain she feels everyday. (“I found the one, he changed my life/But was it me that changed/And he just happened to come at the right time/I'm supposed to be in love but I'm numb again.”)
The pre-chorus and chorus are sung again.
In the bridge, no one knows about her visits to the doctor or her medication. They think she’s content and up for anything. What would they think of her if she told her about her problems? They would think she was crazy. She has to remember how she’s supposed to react when her friends tell her they are getting engaged or frustrations with their jobs. Her lack of empathy scares her. (“There's no one to call/'Cause I'm just playing games with them all/The more I swear I'm happy/The more that I'm feeling alone/'Cause I spend every hour/Just going through the motions/I can't even get the emotions to come out/Dry as a bone but I just wanna shout.”)
The chorus is sung again.
In the final section, she panics, uncertain of what to do. If she calls her doctor, he may suggest putting her into an instuition. It’s been so long since she has felt a genuine emotion, she no longer knows how convey it. (“I don't know where to go/I don't know what to feel/I don't know how to cry/I don't know, oh, oh why/I don't know where to go/I don't know what to feel/I don't know how to cry/I don't know, oh, oh why/I don't know where to go/I don't know what to feel/I don't know how to cry/I don't know, oh, oh why, so what now
Rihanna’s cherubic vocals are wide-eyed, asking for help. The chorus and bridge, though, are monotonous, tone deaf humps she strains to get across. It undercuts her anxiety in her fragile state that her condition is worsening.
The flawed “What Now” is without any power, feeling through the dark.