[Review][Single] EXO – “What Is Love”

At first I thought the whole dual promotional stunt by SM‘s latest minions, EXO K & EXO M, was a neat idea and a unique marketing tactic in and of itself. However, now that it’s gradually being put into action, I really don’t know how I feel about any of it anymore.

Knowing that I’ll be essentially comparing every EXO K & M single always and forever for the sake of saying that I took both versions into consideration in a review kind of drives me up a wall. I mean, I kinda knew this already, but now that I’m here, actually listening to their first single (or prologue thingamajig), I’m finding myself torn in my preferences and asking myself if that should even play a role in my EXO reviews. Should it?

Do I critique an EXO song as just a composition, and exclude separate vocal performances altogether, or segregate one version completely? I mean, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were the same group belting out the same exact song in various languages (SuJu-M), but EXO’s two entities under one name. I kind of have to treat them as separates…but equals? The best way I think would be to treat EXO as just EXO, the project, and focus on what they’re attempting to encompass as a unit in style, song and execution (way to force me to give them special treatment, SM).

For now, I’m just going to rejoice the fact that EXO finally released something that wasn’t a fucking teaser with Kai‘s mug all over it and leave the biggest headache for EXO’s full length album, set to drop later this season.

“What Is Love” (Korean Ver.) MV

Back Info.

Baekhyun (main vocals), Chan Yeol (rapper), D.O (main vocals), Joon Myun (Leader, lead vocals), Kai (vocals, main dancer), Se Hun (vocals, lead dancer, maknae)

Chen (main vocals), Lay (vocals, main dancer), Lu Han (lead vocals, lead dancer), Tao (rapper), Xui Min (ead vocals)


When I listened to “What Is Love” for the first time, I instantly thought it was a pretty song. There’s no question that “What Is Love” is a Yoo Young Jin composition. I didn’t have to look up credits or anything, that’s how strong SME’s in-house production style is, and you really hear it in the R&B tracks. This type of song is Yoo Young Jin’s forte and he does it extremely well, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’ll continue the effort and be heavily involved in shaping EXO’s musical identity as they flock from the nest onward toward world domination. But as much as I would like to sit here, fapping over the fact that “What Is Love” is gorgeous, fabulous and nearly flaw-free, I just …can’t. At least not this early on in EXO’s debut (or whatever).

I have one major issue: “What Is Love” isn’t EXO enough for me.

Do I know what EXO’s music sounds like? Not at all, but that doesn’t change the fact that “What Is Love” is a carbon copy of Dong Bang Shin Ki‘s “Before U Go“. Yes, I said it. If I’m pretending EXO isn’t singing “What Is Love” for a second, this song could have easily been given to DBSK. Easily. It wouldn’t make sense to, but that’s who I’ve come to expect to sing this specific style of song and to suddenly hear it taken over by a bunch of rookies makes my skin crawl.

I’m sure SM wants us to take this as an exemplification of EXO’s amazing vocals and okay, they’re fucking amazing. I’ll give them that much. I’m also sure SM wants to treat them with the highest quality everything because it’s SM and that’s what they do. While I won’t get into how that irks me to my core (treating a rookie group on a level playing field with the likes of DBSK?!? Are you shitting me), but the fact that I feel absolutely no attachment to EXO whatsoever by this or get a sense of who they are worries me. YYJ has proven that he can make a pretty high-end copy of his own shit, and that’s about it. But where is EXO? I certainly hear all two of them, but because “What Is Love” is so derivative, the song almost falls completely by the way side. It doesn’t possess a strong enough connection from its stunning composition to EXO, even if they’re singing it like the angelic singers they are.

I know this is a pre-debut release and the full album will probably shut me the fuck up, but I just wish “What Is Love” was fresher-er and not so goddamned formulaic. It proves that YYJ has still got it in him to churn out stunning songs, but it also proves that he’s maxed out in this particular style. C’mon man, get it together.

I’m glad to hear EXO K & M are talented and that SM has the decency to give them material that isn’t rudimentary dogshit to debut with, but give me something to make me fall in love with these guys! And for the love of all that is holy, please don’t shaft EXO M. Please.

“What Is Love” (Chinese Ver.) MV

support the artist, buy the music: iTunes (EXO KEXO M)

Stay in touch with EXO K & M –
Facebook K: http://www.facebook.com/exok
Facebook M: http://www.facebook.com/exom


14 thoughts on “[Review][Single] EXO – “What Is Love”

  1. Listened to both and just went ehhhhhhhh… I was kind of cringing at the Chinese version, because the diction was horrible. They probably took the Korean version and just did a direct translation. :-/

    • Yeah, that’s what they usually do for SuJu M. I never take into account how awful they probably sound, but you’re fluent in the language. I’ll take your word for it.

      • Not that fluent, but fluent enough to know when something sounds quirky. I lost interest after like the millionth teaser. Eh.

  2. the chinese lyrics is indeed weird… and i thought exo-m would be made up of chinese members… but like what tuc mentioned, the pronunciation is weird. after BAP’s awesome debut stages, this mv pales by comparison. i had to make a conscious effort to watch the chinese version after the korean one. there’s too little of Tao and Lay too… the only members i find interesting in EXO.

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  4. I think that the problem with the song is that it was gorgeous, but it was too….perfect for a rookie group. SM is clearly trying promote the perfection of the group. Good looking members, talented vocals, superior dancing, etc. However, I am finding this a turn off in some cases. Like I can’t explain it, but EXO-Planet they feel so distant and cold. I am not trying to draw comparisions, but at least with B.A.P they have managed to connect with the audience or their listeners in a sense. Also I think with all the teasers, it ruined the hype for this group. SME should have just released three teasers, NOT 98219870930 teasers!

    I like the song, don’t get me wrong, but its not Exo-planet yet.

    • I think there’s something humbling and likable about a group that debuts imperfectly. It gives them so much room to grow, as well as for fans to watch them in the process. That’s how a lot of JPOP works, but KPOP seems to want to be perfect from square one. By doing so, they set the standards incredibly high very early on – so high, that crashing and burning becomes more of a burden to avoid than an accidental mishap.

  5. imo. they are good dancers (just like other SM artists) and thats that….
    their first release- a carbon copy of Before u go…not original not fresh…meh..im not amazed…
    this is just making them an overrated group…
    i think the only ones loyally following this group are hardcore sm towners….

    • It’s just getting difficult to keep up with them, which is a problem because I don’t even know who they are or what they sound like. A group turning me off before they debut? wrong move.

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