K-Pop A-Z

K-Pop A-Z Review: EXO – What Is Love

One song. Every day. Alphabetical order.

Keep up with EXO’s A-Z reviews here!

What Is Love (from Mama – 2012)

I don’t often highlight vocal phrasing as a song’s greatest strength, but What Is Love is all about how EXO wraps their voices around the instrumental’s icy, alien-like beat. This is without a doubt my favorite vocal performance on any EXO song, and on my short list for favorite vocal performance of any K-pop song. Seriously, what EXO are able to do here — especially D.O and Baekhyun — is nothing short of goosebump-inducing. They’re not only interpreting the melody… they’re chewing on it and elevating every line with a sense of emotional urgency.

What Is Love lacks any dull moments. The verses are taken as seriously as the chorus, tugging at the melody with a palpable tension. The layering on the chorus is divine — at once polished and gritty. I wouldn’t ever consider this a dance track, but the entire song is driven by an off-kilter, halting rhythm that blends perfectly with the dramatic waves of synth that support it. Given the mission What Is Love sets out for itself, I honestly can’t find a single flaw.

 Hooks 10
 Production 10
 Longevity 10
 Bias 10


3 thoughts on “K-Pop A-Z Review: EXO – What Is Love

  1. This song is truly just… spectacular. It’s what made me notice EXO prior to their debut, and made me pay attention to their future. While I can’t say I’ve remained a fan, their first mini album is still a standard for me.

    Personally, I’m partial to the EXO-M version, plainly because I prefer Chen and Luhan’s voices. Baekhyun and DO certainly do more “chewing” on the words, however, and I think their voices harmonize better.


  2. Hey, the four new 10/10 rated songs from this A-Z review series needs to be added to the Legendary Songs feature page! (the songs are What Is Love, History, Mama & Love Me Right)


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