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Jul 19

LAS KETCHUP – “Asereje (The Ketchup Song)”

Popular29 comments • 1,152 views

#938, 19th October 2002

A throwback to simpler times – the European novelty hit that spreads across the continent, sparking the dry tinder of holiday nostalgia, reaching Britain in time for bonfire season. Family act Las Ketchup were recruited by Spanish producer Manuel Ruiz for just this effect, and the project was ludicrously successful – an ongoing career for the Munoz sisters and a debut LP which shifted an eye-popping 12 million copies. Four of its eleven tracks are incarnations of “Asereje”: the days of Boney M, and the dance group as steady hitmaker, are long gone. You only get one shot.

It’s a decent, if cynical, shot too. “Asereje” is a featherlight piece of Latin pop which makes me ask the standard question – why don’t we see this stuff more often on Popular? – and then provides the answer itself. This is Latin pop for a cultural context where Spanish isn’t the continent’s dominant language, it’s what Northern Europeans garble when they’re trying to flirt with a hot waiter. The intentionally scrambled chorus is the same in “Spanish”, “English” and “Spanglish” versions, “Rapper’s Delight” put through a Euroblender and coming out as half-understood beach-bar babble. It gets annoying in medium doses, but by that time you’re hooked and learning the dance moves. A hard-working hit on every level, and a carefully-built throwaway – even the nonsense controversy (it’s about the devil!) feels like it could have been part of the plan.

5

Comments

  1. 1
    lmm on 8 Jul 2019 #

    I remember this, which has to speak something in its favour, but I’m struggling to find anything substantial to say about it. Catchy chorus and… no, that’s all actually.

  2. 2
    Mark G on 8 Jul 2019 #

    So, where did that “boogie and the biggide bee” come from? This always sounded like the “Rappers Delight” was nicking it from here, obviously that’s not possible.

    I suspect it comes from somewhere much older, but .. where?

  3. 3
    JLucas on 8 Jul 2019 #

    Perhaps inevitably, Las Ketchup wound up representing Spain at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 with a song called ‘Bloody Mary’. In the year of Lordi, there were precious few novelty votes left over for a half-baked rehash of a four-year old hit though, and they went home in 21st place.

    https://youtu.be/N8HnyH8PHVI

  4. 4
    James BC on 8 Jul 2019 #

    Cultural appropriation and nowhere near as catchy as when the Rolling Stones did it. 2 out of 10.

  5. 5
    AMZ1981 on 8 Jul 2019 #

    I think it’s curious how this one has rather fallen off the radar; while other holiday formation dance songs still fill dance floors (Agadoo, Whigfield, Macarena) The Ketchup Song is all but forgotten now despite arguably following the same formula.

    Otherwise the only thing I can find to say about this is that I’d take it over Will and Gareth any day; which says more about the two of them than it does Las Ketchup.

  6. 6
    joris on 8 Jul 2019 #

    Sheila B played it last week in Sophisticated Boom Boom on WFMU: http://wfmu.org/playlists/shows/86869. Not a context where you’re particularly likely to hear it – and it took a while before I realized why it sounded so familiar – but it didn’t really stuck out as much as a sore thumb as you might perhaps expect.

  7. 7
    23 Daves on 9 Jul 2019 #

    This is still played in my house, as my wife bought it at the time and somehow never got sick of it (having just checked, it even seems to have worked its way into my iTunes folder).

    The main point I will raise in its favour is that despite its repeated hammerings over the years, I don’t think “Oh God, turn it off NOW” whenever I hear it. It doesn’t have the high irritation factor of something like “Agadoo” or other similar holiday novelty hits. It’s hard to think of anything more substantial to say about it than that, though. It’s cheery, it’s harmless, it comes, it goes, and if I’m in the right mood I even slightly enjoy it.

    I’d probably give it a 5 as well or a 6 if in the right frame of mind (slightly drunk).

  8. 8
    Andrew Farrell on 9 Jul 2019 #

    That’s interesting – I don’t think I’ve heard ‘Agadoo’ in about thirty years.

  9. 9
    Duro on 9 Jul 2019 #

    For me this is comfortably the best number one since ‘Round Round’, it builds to the chorus nicely and when I worked out the underlying concept…whoah. Hats off, Ketchups, it’s a 6/10!

  10. 10
    Lee Saunders on 9 Jul 2019 #

    There’s a lot of things that do it for me with Asereje – the cooing production (which but for My Sweet Lord is maybe the most atypical in a 2002 number one), the almost random flickering between Spanish and English, their effortlessly cool singing voices and in particular their scansion – the way they sail through the bridge in particular (and as with previous no 1s Dr Jones and Boom Boom Boom Boom I find that very pretty bridge to be its highlight). Despite its holiday disco associations, it wasn’t and doesn’t sound like a summer hit, and as with Saturday Night before it the special ‘dance’ that goes with it is purely incidental to what comes across as a rather unassuming (and endearingly so) record.

    I was about 14 when I found out ‘Asereje’ was what they were actually singing instead of ‘I said a-hey, a-hey’, despite having the title written out right there for me all that time.

    7 or 8, probably 7.

  11. 11
    Lee Saunders on 9 Jul 2019 #

    I’m sure some of these will be expanded upon by others but other new entries in the top 20 were: S Club Juniors bagging their third #2 in a row (the first time this had happened since Sash!?), Foo Fighters at #5 with All My Life (I tend to like Foo hits best when they use slightly unpredictable, dynamic arrangements, as with this), a much maligned Richard Ashcroft song at #11 that probably only I would defend in any way (nice music), The Coral’s Dreaming of You at #13 which today is perhaps the most ubiquitous indie crossover of 2002, a Nick Carter song I’ve never heard at #17, an AATW production with Trinity-X’s Forever at #19 and the Vines’ rubbish Outtathaway at #20.

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 9 Jul 2019 #

    I’m not sure I remember this or not, which I think may be what makes it so less irritating than previous holiday hits. The ‘lyrics’ function as percussive accents rather than demanding comprehension. It’s undemanding fun and a relief from pleading/bleeding ballads.

  13. 13
    AMZ1981 on 9 Jul 2019 #

    #11 At least three artists (Boyzone, 5ive and S Club 7 themselves) had scored a number two hat trick post Sash although S Club Juniors were the first who hadn’t also scored a chart topper. I had forgotten that S Club Juniors had managed as many chart runners up; One Step Closer is the only one I actually remember.

  14. 14
    ThePensmith on 11 Jul 2019 #

    I can’t help but feel a tad nostalgic about this one. For me ‘The Ketchup Song’ marked one last hurrah for the imported novelty holiday hit complete with drunk proof dance craze that spread like wildfire when granted a full UK release as summer gave way to autumn.

    The advancement of global release dates was in its primitive stages by the following year, thus slowly denecessitating the need for anyone to invest in such tracks via expensive import copies a whole month before. We were the last country to crown it as a chart topper as I recall, and I think the original release date might have even coincided with Will and Gareth’s two weeks prior. Compare this to how relatively quickly we got a 2012 bunny, that also became a viral novelty hit with a notorious dance craze, and the difference in speed is huge.

    Musically there’s motifs that hark back to the best bits of these brief but brightly burning hits: the nonsensical Spanglish of ‘Macarena’ here, the frenetic building in the bridge evoking the bombastic hysteria of ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ there, likewise how the surf guitar segues into the chorus (and it was by no means the last 2002 bunny to utilise that). It’s demented, but in the best possible way, and definitely one of the most well put together novelty holiday hits I’ve heard.

    Its video also does the genius if unintended thing of looking perilously close to a music video parody from the Channel 4 sketch show ‘Smack the Pony’ – specifically one from their 2000 series that was a mickey take of Ricky Martin/Geri Halliwell titled ‘Mucho Latino (Mi Pico Chorizo)’. It certainly did well enough to be the 8th biggest seller of the year, and to still be inside the top 10 for Christmas and the first week of 2003. A follow up single, ‘Kusha La Payas’, was scheduled for release the following March, but was ultimately cancelled, and the last they were heard of was, as JLucas at #3 pointed out, at Eurovision 2006.

    That said, I can’t give this anything more than a 7, for the simple fact its success prevents us discussing the third and best single in the triumvirate of #2 hits from S Club Juniors, namely the wistful, Bollywood string laden, Kylie-esque “New Direction”. Also penned by Cathy Dennis, to my ears this was the single that, were its performers not looked so unfavourably upon for having an average age of 12, would be considered a classic now. Certainly it’s what I felt the senior S Club should’ve returned with for their first single as a sextet a month later instead of the average ‘Don’t Stop Movin” retread that was ‘Alive’.

  15. 15
    weej on 11 Jul 2019 #

    Don’t know if I am going out on a limb here, but I always found something strangely melancholic about the vocal melody, especially the way trailed off downwards at the end of ‘..buididipi’ – I can’t say for sure whether it’s due to their vocal limitations, but along with the low-key-spa-style triphop instrumental breaks it makes for a really not very cheerful-sounding lightweight novelty hit.

  16. 16
    wichitalineman on 11 Jul 2019 #

    Re 15: There’s a definite minor key melancholy to The Ketchup Song. The chorus has a beautiful, unexpected uplift, and a daftness in its scat lyric (more Louis Jordan than Sugarhill Gang – or maybe Scatman John if you’re looking for a more recent forebear), as well as genuinely odd chord shifts and structure that nobody would have come up with if they were aiming for a LCD holiday smash.

    As it’s of Spanish origin, I don’t really want to think of it as cynical. I’m really quite fond of The Ketchup Song; I don’t remember it from the time, but heard it around 10 years ago when I was listening to all the ’00s No.1s as a private project. I can see a lineage with Wembley-born Spanish singer Jeanette (who has just been compiled by the aforementioned Sheila B) – outward-looking, playful, non-serious Spanish pop which has a Latin feel but isn’t designed for an authenticity test. There is always the very non-melancholic Ricky Martin and his “skin is a colour mocha” as a better Popular example of decidedly cynical, but horribly catchy, Spanglish.

  17. 17
    Shiny Dave on 12 Jul 2019 #

    #12: In an era filled with number ones that were so desperate to please – maybe because pop music itself was now fighting for attention after The End of The End of History a year earlier – it’s arguably a lot easier to like the ones that are all about the fun? Especially something like this that, for all its calculation (the Spanish/English/Spanglish versions!), manages to sound less desperate than the songs around it, making “Saturday Night” the perfect comparison. (That, too, took #1 at the expense of a 60s cover ballad!)

    I’m guessing Las Ketchup couldn’t have existed much later or earlier than they did as a made-to-order bubblegum group explicitly for the holiday market? Certainly the digital era would make an equivalent today a quite different proposition. Arguably bubblegum as a whole has it harder in the streaming era? And this is absolutely textbook big-hit bubblegum, an extremely calculated piece of silliness that people loved, then hated, then either forgot about, kept hating, or loved again after the initial ubiquity faded. I can’t go as far as loving it, but I like it, more than I remembered liking it, and it might be a 7. It’s definitely not below a 6.

    #16 Fair point about the harmonic quirkiness, but sometimes that background oddity is where bubblegum writers play around, putting the complexity where it’s not necessarily noticed as such. Pretty sure someone mentioned at the time Popular got there about how that was the case with SAW.

  18. 18
    CriticSez on 12 Jul 2019 #

    #17 What do you mean by ‘The End of The End of History?’ Was that when (SHOCK HORROR!) DJ Ötzi was at the top?

    Anyway, this song isn’t fun at all. I don’t know why, but Spanglish doesn’t really work. Four.

  19. 19
    23 Daves on 12 Jul 2019 #

    #8 – Yes… I’ve been thinking about that.

    I’m pretty sure that I haven’t heard “Agadoo” on the radio at any point in the last 15 years, but I do think I’ve heard it at family parties with small children involved (though I’m sure none of the children knew it or requested it) and also leaking out of certain bars and amusement arcades in coastal resorts.

    I got into a discussion with some Germans I met on holiday once about “Agadoo” and they categorised it as a fairly commonly encountered (and awful) schlager song, so I think how often you hear it depends upon how regularly you drift into the orbit of places where it’s most likely to be encountered. It’s not exactly a Radio Two Golden Oldie, but in places where the whiff of hot dogs and candy floss can easily be smelt, you can sometimes hear it on the breeze. (But maybe it’s a long time since this actually happened and I’m confusing a summer afternoon in Southsea in 1999 with the present day).

  20. 20
    weej on 12 Jul 2019 #

    I recently went to a child’s birthday party, hosted by his 96-year-old grandmother’s carer, in her house, and they played a CD of children’s classics including Agadoo, Jake The Peg and The Laughing Policeman. The 5-year-olds had no interest in it whatsoever.

  21. 21
    23 Daves on 13 Jul 2019 #

    The standard DJ/ compilation list of children’s songs is very, very slow to move on, isn’t it? I can remember being in bed as a child listening to Tony Blackburn playing “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?” and “The Laughing Policeman” on “Junior Choice” and thinking “Tony, this is a bit old hat now”. Yet they live on -or at least “Laughing Policeman” does. I wouldn’t swear by “How Much Is That Doggie…”

    I was once told that “Doggie” has become one of the harder number ones to track down in excellent condition, presumably due to it being an old, fragile shellac gramophone record which was much loved by clumsy children with sticky fingers. There’s currently only one copy for sale on Discogs, so that seems to bear this collector’s fact out.

  22. 22
    Paulito on 13 Jul 2019 #

    From my own experience as a dad, young kids will easily enjoy classic children’s songs (as well as old pop and classical novelties) if they hear them a few times at home, in the car etc and especially if you sing along and draw their attention to the funny words, sound effects etc. My four-year-old loves things like “Robin Hood” (the Dick James song), “Witch Doctor”, “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”, “Octopus’s Garden” and “Right Said Fred” (the Bernard Cribbins hit, not the band). It’s a great introduction to the world of music and song.

  23. 23
    AMZ1981 on 13 Jul 2019 #

    Obviously I was the one who brought Agadoo into the conversation. I suppose it differs from the other songs I mentioned in that it was a largely British confection (albeit with European origins) rather than an import from the continent. It’s true that you’d probably only hear it in fairly low brow settings but it has endured up to a point – if somebody started a `worst song ever` poll now it would probably feature highly.

    My original point; that Macarena and Saturday Night (only six and eight years old respectively at this point) still fill dance floors these days while The Ketchup Song is forgotten. Having said that, I was wrong to suggest it’s the last formation dance number as we do have an exercise routine themed bunny coming up in 2004 which has stood the test of time better.

  24. 24
    LucaZM on 13 Jul 2019 #

    It’s weird to see everyone talking about this as a forgotten novelty. I’m Brazilian and here this was HUGE and still is in some ways. I think by then Brazilian pop took quite a while to catch up to what was happening overseas, so bubblegum, Britney-style electropop, Ricky Martin latin flavour and the reality show boom were all happening at the same time. Our version of Asereje was actually called Ragatanga, and it was recorded by a girl group called Rouge, which was formed in the Brazilian version of Popstars, and though most of the world had moved on their main reference point was still the Spice Girls. They released a mix of original songs and portuguese versions of whatever the label had, mostly stuff I’ve never heard of but with some truly weird choices, from Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn to B*Witched’s C’est La Vie. Ragatanga was their first and biggest hit. It doesn’t change much of the original version, even keeping a chorus from Las Ketchup like they’re some weird kind of uncredited guests, although they do have a better vocal range and I think the arrengement is a little better. The biggest difference is they added some steps to the dance, mixing it up a bit with the Macarena, so you have some more to do at the start of the chorus.

    Maybe Brazil was an ideal spot for this to blow up, because the spanish influences are foreign enough to have that little “exotic” flair but the language is still familiar enough that the translation doesn’t sound strange and the spanish nonsense in the chorus could just as well be portuguese nonsense. Most importantly I think the heart of the song still works. I don’t think the chorus is just a nonsense version of Rapper’s Delight, it’s also english as understood by someone who doesn’t speak it. It’s instantly familiar to the way I remember hearing “Who let the dogs out” as “Eee-levitosa” as a child. It speaks to a particular way of engaging with pop that you lose when you learn the songs language, when you don’t really have to care about what the lyrics mean, and that is a much rarer feeling to people who know english. The Ketchup Song is particularly Latin about it too, basically telling a story about a guy named Diego who dances to a Salsa mix of Rapper’s Delight without caring about the words, engaging with english pop on his own terms.

    I’d give it an 8. It’s a classic!

  25. 25
    PurpleKylie on 14 Jul 2019 #

    This brings back a lot of nostalgia for me, I was 14 in 2002 and I remember the video being played a lot on The Box music channel (remember that?), and so I had memorised the silly hand dance that they do.

    Looking back on it, I wouldn’t say that this is by any means a pop masterpiece, but there’s a great deal of comfort in revisiting it. Unlike a lot of silly novelty songs of that era, it’s not cringeworthy to look back on. I would kind of agree with some of the other comments that it’s kind of faded from memory. Even a few of those really awful novelty bunnies occasionally get brought up on clip shows as a “lol look how bad music was in the early 2000s” punchline.

    A solid 6.

  26. 26
    ThePensmith on 14 Jul 2019 #

    #23 – aaah yes, I know the one you mean re: 2004 bunny. I was actually incorrect myself because where imported holiday hits are concerned there was an unbunnied one from Moldovan trio O-Zone that same year, ‘Dragostea Din Tei’ (or ‘Mi Ya Hiii’ as its more commonly known) which made #3 in June as opposed to September/October, and stayed in the top 10 for quite a while all whilst being point blank ignored by both TOTP and CD:UK on a weekly basis. Although it does prove my point that by that stage in the game, we were getting such hits – however fewer there were – at roughly the same time the rest of Europe did.

  27. 27
    flahr on 14 Jul 2019 #

    If random Googled sources are to be believed the name Las Ketchup is quite sensible (group comprises daughters of man nicknamed The Tomato). There doesn’t seem to be any reason for this to be called “The Ketchup Song” though – except the crassly commercial duo of enhancing its novelty value and allowing Anglophones in HMV to say “could I have a copy of Asje… Asejer… Ajesr… The Ketchup Song please”.

    Maybe there’s an alternate universe where it works like “The Shoop Shoop Song” and there are bubblegum backing vox crooning “KETCH! UP! KETCH! UP!”.

    Anyway, I must have some memory of this from the time (though I used to conflate it with the following year’s #2 “Fast Food Song” – much more explicitly novelty than this) but little enough of one that I don’t find this annoying now. The plot of the song is quite sweet and an ode to exciting but harmless cultural interchange. A six.

  28. 28
    swanstep on 16 Jul 2019 #

    This one’s new to me and, honestly, it sounds to me like a hit from today’s very Latin-inflected charts, i.e., that it would hit today not as a novelty record but as the n-th follow-up to ‘Despacito’. Some tasty chords and changes & non-obvious harmonies combine with craftily added rhythmic elements to always be interesting (e.g., creating ingenious virtual tempo changes), compensating for the nonce-syllables insofar as they are a problem (depends on my mood). I’m surprised by how much I like this:
    7

  29. 29
    CriticSez on 16 Jul 2019 #

    #28 That entry is BUNNIED for a LONG time!

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