Having already chart-ruled 21 countries and gone pan-European No. 1, “Aserejé” will be compared relentlessly to the macarena as it’s angled for the Anglo market. But the real musical forebears of Las Ketchup, three daughters of Spanish flamenco star El Tomate, are the Spice Girls, who first brought ecstatic girl-group amateurishness to the category of Condiment Pop. And lyrically, the so-called “Ketchup Song” draws most heavily on the style of Objectivist poet Louis Zukovsky and wife Celia, who translated classical poet Catullus using whatever English words most resembled the Latin, while maintaining rhythm and syllables. “Aserejé” does the same with classical poets the Sugarhill Gang’s epochal “Rapper’s Delight.” Hijinx ensue.
Pleasure One: It’s funny and adorable to hear lovin’-every-minute Spanish women try to deal with Sugarhill’s chorus. They think they don’t get it because it’s a foreign language; how could they know it’s nonsense already? Garbage in, garbage out: Don’t waste your high school Spanish translating “Aserejé” back into English. It’s still nonsense: The meaningless title wants to be “I said a hip,” and it just gets cuter from there.
Pleasure Two: The chorus-length hook is grippy enough to climb a Billboard, but what the song shares with plenty internationalismo and old-skool hip-hop (and almost no other anglophone music) is how the vocals lead out the rhythm—cascading joyously over a neutral Spanglobeat you’ll never even notice, racing away from technique toward a good time like the crypto-dance-craze Las Ketchup demo in the video.
Pleasure Bonus: A whole cultural theory! The verse tells the story of some guy named Diego I don’t quite follow, but along the way it mentions rumba, ragatanga, rastafari afrogitano, mambo, and salsa. We got the beat, the song says. We got our own phonemes. You might have the language of Empire; we’re not gonna take it.