“What Is Love” by Haddaway

Haddaway is a singer who is of European and Caribbean parentage. Even though he dropped six studio albums between 1993 and 2011, as far as the industry goes this musician can be considered a one-hit wonder – a musician whose debut single really caught on yet who was unable to replicate its success. And in his case that one hit would be “What Is Love”, which Arista Records and Coconut Records released on 7 May 1993.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Haddaway's What Is Love at Lyrics.org.


This song was indeed a notable success, such that anyone familiar with 1990s’ dance music has undoubtedly heard it before. Upon its release, “What Is Love” won a number of awards in Germany, which is the base of Coconut Records. Since then it has been celebrated by the likes of MTV, Vibe and Elie as being, most simply put, one of the greatest dance songs of all time.

Going back to its actual issuance in 1993, “What Is Love” proceeded to top music charts in a dozen countries. It charted in over 20 nations overall and respectively peaked at numbers 2, 3 and 11 on the UK Singles Chart, UK Dance Chart and Billboard Hot 100. It has also been certified in about 10 countries, most notably achieving platinum status in the United Kingdom.

Besides that, this song semi-regularly pops up in movies, videogames and what have you. For instance, it made an appearance on the MCU’s 2018 box office smash, Black Panther

Furthermore this track, in a roundabout way, spawned a movie of its own, that being 1998’s A Night at the Roxbury, which is based on a Saturday Night Live skit that features “What Is Love” as a plot device. And amongst those who got around to sampling this track is Eminem, who did so on his “No Love (Remix)” of 2010.

Credits for “What Is Love”

It is also the aforementioned Coconut Records that is behind the composition of this track, i.e. the label’s founder, Tony Hendrik and his wife, Karin van Haaren, having produced and wrote “What Is Love”. 

So all they needed really was Haddaway’s vocals to make it a hit, and as they story goes they discovered him while he was laying down demos in the basement of the label’s office. The singer did go on to release most of his discography, i.e. his first five studio albums, through Coconut. 

And to note, the director of this track’s music video is Volker Hannwacker. Additionally, the background vocalist on this track is Lisa Noya, whose vocals Coconut reportedly derived from a sound library.

“What Is Love” – A Song of Unrequited Love

The chorus of “What Is Love” can be considered a quintessential example of an earworm. And as is the norm in such cases, the rest of the narrative can easily get lost along the way.

But there are actually verses to this song, even if they aren’t exquisitely detailed. What they firmly go on to indicate is that the singer is a victim of unrequited love. In other words, under his estimation he has given the addressee his heart, but her response is along the lines of ‘not caring’ either way.

Sometimes, when a person is jilted in such a manner, they can simply move on with their lives. But as the conclusion of the second verse leading into the third verse indicates, as far as Haddaway is concerned, this addressee is the one for him, and therefore her lack of interest is breaking his heart.

So by the time all is said and done, the lyrics never answer the titular question as to what love actually is.  But maybe, within the context of the chorus and the story at large, what Haddaway is trying to say is that the way the apple of his eye is treating him obviously doesn’t fall into that category.

“What is love?
Oh, baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me, no more”
What Is Love

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