He Haddaway With This Song

One-hit wonder "What Is Love" in this week's Forgotten Videos
  • Haddaway in "What Is Love"
June 15, 2011 -- 5:00 am PDT
GRAMMY.com

Welcome to Forgotten Videos. For some, these videos are forgotten, for others just filed away, and for others still, a totally brand-new discovery. Whichever category you fall into, each week we'll feature a video that's possibly been collecting dust when what it really deserves is a fresh look. Or vice-versa…. We're not here to judge, we just want to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Yep, you'll remember when hair was really that big, when drums were that up front in the mix, when video was young(er) and so were you.

Haddaway
"What Is Love"
1993

Imagine Twilight shot as a '90s music video set to one of that decade's most memorable dance tracks and you have some, admittedly skewed, sense of how Haddaway's big hit "What Is Love" video looked. The dark (though dance-crazed), vampire-themed clip almost defies the bouncy rhythm of the track, as does the song's lyric, recounting the pain of unrequited love. To add to the mash-up of competing themes, the clip looks like it was shot just as music video directors were learning that lightning-fast cuts kept the Ritalin-dosed MTV audience engaged, but were still perfecting the techniques of those cuts. Here, it's rudimentary camera zooms and simply rude timing.

Nevertheless, "What Is Love" climbed to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would go on to become a lasting artifact of the '90s club scene, with special thanks to its use in a "Saturday Night Live" skit featuring Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan. The skit ultimately morphed into the 1998 film A Night At The Roxbury, which starred the latter two.

As for Haddaway, "What Is Love" proved his only major hit. According to his current website, Haddaway's voice is "unmistakable" and he's sold 28 million records worldwide. He was born Nestor Alexander Haddaway in Trinidad and Tobago, and studied at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated with a doctorate in political science and history. (We're assuming that's two Ph.D.s. That's impressive.) In 1989 Haddaway moved to Cologne, Germany, where he perfected his Kölsch — the local dialect — before meeting producer Tony Hendrik and launching a nearly 20-year recording career, during which he's landed a number of hits in Europe.

Haddaway still performs 120 dates a year, and according to his official bio, he is an "academic, dandy, businessman, sportsman, globetrotter, composer, singer" and, of course, "football fan."

The most recent reincarnation of "What Is Love" came in the form of the backing track for a Diet Pepsi Max Super Bowl commercial in 2008. While the song may not have answered the age-old question in its title, it's offering new generations a second chance to ask.

 

Do you know what love is? Got any Forgotten Video recommendations? Leave us a comment.

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