Oh this song, this song….The feels, the feels……
Okay, okay I’m back. Writing this post has been so hard. It’s difficult to try to stay objective with this song. While Admin Pisces gets “skin orgasms” I get those with the addition of “eargasms” listening to “What Is Love.” It is easy to get caught up in this song but then again that’s what composers want; for the listener to become connected to, enjoy, and get lost in their piece. I must say they certainly did their job in regards to “What Is Love.”
**Warning: Again, this discussion is based on an aural analysis only. I know I’ve said this before but gee whiz, it sure would be nice if I could get my hands on a full score…(I’m looking at you SM…)
The intro starts with the electric rhythmic melody reminiscent of the melody heard on a merry-go-round or some other carnival ride. A fitting inclusion as the song will later go on to expound on the perplexing feelings that the protagonist has for this girl. You could say that he is on an emotional ride. The beat drops and electric strings come in playing tenutos giving a soft, elongated touch to the instrumentation. This effect calls to mind an instrumental representation of what waiting on baited breath would sound like. Once you get to the chorus there is an added sound effect of interval leaps that reminds one of those sliding whistle toys. The poor guy is slipping and fast.
**Warning: The following section contains a comparison and contrast of the EXO-K and EXO-M versions of the analyzed piece. This by no means should be taken as a preference of one version over the other.
The melody is mostly simple as is usual for a R&B/Pop ballad. That does not mean that it is without its dramatic moments like MAMA. But in order to study the melody of the song, the analyst must take into account that no two singers sing the same thing exactly alike due to vocal capabilities. What Is Love is sung by Luhan and Chen in the EXO-M version and D.O. and Baekhyun in the EXO-K version. There is a beautiful vocal balance in the EXO-M version between Luhan’s mellow, contemplative voice and Chen’s more powerful, pleading execution of his parts. In the EXO-K version, there is an ebb and flow in the vocal line provided by D.O. and Baekhyun. Their voices full voices go from imploring to frustrated and back again while steadily moving towards the climax of the song. Both versions have this amazing oneness of voice in the chorus which is a feat that is difficult to master. Both duos make great stylistic use of guttural The highlight of the song is the end where the protagonist makes an impassioned entreaty sung by Chen and Baekhyun in the EXO-M and EXO-K versions respectively. At this point the protagonist is saying:
My ba-baby, ba-baby, baby
告诉我到底 what is love
gaosu wo daodi what is love
So tell me what is love
My ba-baby ba-baby baby
말해줘 내게 what is love
malhaejwo naege what is love
Tell me, what is love
Both singers make great use of the high note in this section, effortless letting the F5 resonate in stratosphere.
The delivery of the melody within the EXO-M version by Chen and Luhan shows the harmony that can be achieved when using dissimilar voice types. During the song, Chen mostly relies on the strength of his voice and enunciating the syllables to get the emotions of the song across. Luhan, on the other hand, uses a smooth, buttery tone and phrasing, as if reasoning with himself. The pairing creates a melodic synthesis.
EXO-K’s delivery of the melody by D.O. and Baekhyun shows the unity and flexibility that can be achieved within powerful voices. While they both have powerful voices the similarities stop there. D.O.’s voice continuously moves from commanding and smooth to powerful and uses disjunct phrasing to portray the emotions in the song. Baekhyun however uses an agitated delivery and steadily increases power and volume as the song reaches its climax. As stated before, there is an ebb and flow feel in the version created by the duo’s use of an arching melodic line.
Overall, What Is Love is a beautiful confection of a piece full of emotion that will entrance the listener. Such an exquisite work of art. **Le sigh**
** Experience Otherworldly Aural Transfiguration **