Although it took four years for Clean Bandit to issue a sophomore follow-up to their breakthrough debut, they'd slowly been building up to What Is Love? with a series of chart-topping singles that all found their way onto this set. Joined by an impressive roster of high-profile guests from the worlds of pop and hip-hop, the trio took big steps away from the underground-house-meets-classical-crossover sound of their early work and leaned into crowd-pleasing, island-inspired grooves designed for the dancefloor. Like a modern-day Ace of Base, Clean Bandit borrow those reggaeton and dancehall flavors, weaving in their signature cello and violin for emotional sweep, and slapping heavy percussion into the mix for good measure. Front-loaded with the hits, What Is Love? starts as strong as they come, propelling through the joyful "Symphony" with Zara Larsson; the throbbing "Baby" with Marina and the Diamonds and Luis Fonsi; Demi Lovato's empowering "Solo," and the urgent ode to a single mother's love, "Rockabye," with Sean Paul and Anne-Marie. Additional highlights include Ellie Goulding's "Rockabye" extension, "Mama"; "Last Goodbye" with Tove Styrke and Stefflon Don; the touching "We Were Just Kids" with Craig David and Kirsten Joy, and "Nowhere" with Rita Ora and KYLE. While the energy tapers off on the second half of the album, these midtempo jams are as addictive as the euphoric singles, providing contemplative balance and additional opportunities to showcase each inspired collaboration. What Is Love? was worth the long wait, taking the promise of "Rather Be" and topping it many times over.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung