By her own admission, Elyssa Plaza’s “Is It Really Love” is “about the misinterpretations of love language.” As proposed by Gary Chapman in his 1992 book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, we express and feel love in five ways: through words of affirmation, spending quality time with somebody, receiving/giving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. When, a few years ago, a friend told me about Chapman’s theory, I felt a shift in how I understood my relationships. The sting from having long stretches pass without seeing somebody felt a little duller (although it’s still frustrating!) and I became more conscious of my unshakable need to give people gifts.
On “Is It Really Love,” a broody R&B/pop tune, Plaza is attuned to her own love languages but is left frustrated by her partner’s words and actions: “Is it really love? The way you show it isn’t there,” Plaza repeats, each instance showing off her impressive vocal control. Around the 1:20 mark, the afterglow of Plaza and her partner’s initial meeting fades completely and the track reaches its breaking point. On the coattails of a quivering bass line, the beat drops and Plaza shifts from frustration to anger, and is confidentially on her way to find somebody with more decipherable love languages.