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"What Is Love" is a song recorded by Trinidadian-German Eurodance artist Haddaway for his debut album, The Album. The song was released on 8 May 1993 as the album's lead single by Coconut Records. It was a massive hit in Europe, becoming a number-one hit in at least 13 countries and reaching number two in Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Outside Europe, the song was moderately successful, reaching number 11 in the United States, number 12 in Australia, number 17 in Canada, and number 48 in New Zealand.
"What Is Love" was written and produced by German music producer and composer Dee Dee Halligan (Dieter Lünstedt a.k.a. Tony Hendrik) and Junior Torello (Karin Hartmann-Eisenblätter a.k.a. Karin van Haaren) of Coconut Records in Cologne. They were waiting for the right singer for the song. Trinidadian-born singer Nestor Alexander Haddaway was then chosen to sing it. He used to work as a producer, dancer and choreographer before he was signed to Coconut Records. In a 2012 interview Haddaway said about the making of "What Is Love":
We just used ideas that were fresh at that time and tried to make something that nobody else had, (...) The song came really fast. I had the idea for the melodies in about 45 minutes and the total structure of the song was done in a day and a half.
Release and legacy
Haddaway in the "What Is Love" music video.
"What Is Love" was released in Europe in May 1993 and in the US in August 1993. It peaked at number two in the United Kingdom and Germany and hit number one in 13 other countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. Debuting at number 87 on 28 August 1993, the song reached number 11 on the Hot 100 in the United States. The song also peaked at number 12 in Australia. By March 1994, worldwide sales of "What Is Love" had already reached 2.6 million.
When asked about the meaning of "What Is Love" in a 2015 interview, Haddaway said:
People always ask me about what I meant, (...) I meant that 'what is love' needs to be defined by everyone by his own definition. It's unique and individual. For me, it has to do with trust, honesty, and dedication.
Billboard wrote about the song: "Glorious pop/house ditty recently topped English pop charts, and was an international club hit almost a year ago. Wildly catchy chorus is complemented by a slick, synth-happy arrangement. Haddaway will conjure up images of Seal and Sydney Youngblood with his worldly baritone delivery. A sure-fire dance hit that has the muscle to push its way onto pop formats with ease."
Music & Media noted that the song has "a fast house beat augmented by Nestor Haddaway's deeply soulful vocals. This is definitely on par with anything that has come out of Chicago's deep house scene for quite some time."
The Gavin Report wrote: "Try sitting still seconds after this upbeat entry kicks in. Still hot in the U.K. where it had a Top 10 run, Haddaway's style is reminscent of the Fine Young Cannibals and just as exciting."
The music video of "What Is Love" was directed by German music video director Volker Hannwacker. It features Haddaway performing in an old castle, surrounded by vampire-like dominatrices.
In 2016, Belgian DJ Lost Frequencies released a cover titled "What Is Love 2016", as a single from his debut album Less Is More. It was actually already produced back in 2014 as a remix for Jaymes Young's cover version of "What is Love". This version was remade for the album and became a hit on a number of European singles charts and topped the Belgian Ultratop Official Singles Chart.
An official music video was released directed by Soulvizion. It features the Dutch professional basketball player Don Rigters who plays the role of David Rose, a basketball player who is severely injured trying to make a comeback to the game with encouragement from his girlfriend, (played by Melissa Kanza), his three teammates, (Alkenah Wansing, Jeroen Jansen and Lindy Chippendel) and by his basketball coach (played by J E Rigters).
Armada / Mostiko, 7 October 2016
"What Is Love 2016" - 2:52
Armada / Mostiko, 28 October 2016
What Is Love 2016" (Regi & Lester Williams Remix) - 4:21
Lost & Cie / Armada, 11 November 2016
"What Is Love 2016" (Regi & Lester Williams Remix) - 3:08
"What Is Love 2016" (Regi & Lester Williams Extended Remix) - 4:10
Armada / Mostiko, 6 January 2017
"What Is Love 2016" (Mike Mago Remix) - 3:29
"What Is Love 2016" (Zonderling Remix) - 3:11
"What Is Love 2016" (Galactic Marvl Remix) - 2:54
"What Is Love 2016" (Rose Remix) - 3:08
"What Is Love 2016" (Mike Mago Extended Remix) - 5:49
"What Is Love 2016" (Zonderling Extended Remix) - 4:27