This is a cute little song with lots of potential, but it’s too bland and cheesy to have any real emotional impact. Uku has a lovely voice- especially those bass notes in the first verse- but the song doesn’t give him full reign to show it off. What I really like about this song is the strong beat and melody in its main motif- it’s catchy, a little off the beaten track, and it stays with you. The problem is that the whole song rests on this theme, and it becomes overwhelmingly repetitive. I can see that the song has tried to deviate slightly from the typical formula (verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-done) but structurally, it feels a little clunky and the links could be better. The first chorus in particular stands out- the song’s main theme is introduced gently, and I expected it to build slowly to the full chorus, but no. It comes straight in without any warning, and it’s quite jarring. The entire mood shifts in this moment- from theatrical ballad to pop-ballad and I wish the transition had been more smooth, or the song just picked one genre and really went for it. That said, I do like that chorus- the ambiguous key, the driving rhythm, it’s a lovely idea. If only we had some better lyrics- they are pure cheese, and it makes the song feel a bit too sappy. Don’t get me wrong- it does still have its charm, but it could go a little deeper to bring out some real emotion and really grip the listener. I expect something more powerful for a song describing what love is to Uku. Still, on the whole, this is a decent little song. It’s just too bland for me.
Prediction for how this would have done had ESC gone ahead: I can’t see this getting out of the semi-finals, I’m afraid. We have the likes of Switzerland and Bulgaria, incredibly rich ballads, in this semi, and I worry that ‘What Love Is’ would get completely swallowed up by stronger songs. Unlike ‘Storm’ from last year, it doesn’t have a strong mainstream appeal to pull in jury votes, and I doubt it would get enough televote support to break into the top 10.
40. Belarus- Da Vidna
41. France- Mon Ailée