Under its actual, original, Spanish-language title of “Asereje,” “The Ketchup Song” is one of the biggest pop hits everywhere in the world except America ever. It’s like the soccer of music, or the Fanta of music. Simple, palatable, inoffensive, and yet impossible for it to make it in the states. Actually, Las Ketchup themselves remind me of the Fanta Girls, that ill-conceived corny-sexy excessively Euro ad campaign that appealed only to Europeans used to shill that stuff that they used to make Americans want to drink weird foreign pineapple soda.
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Obviously, the point of comparison here is the Macarena, as both are Spanish, Spain-originated, highly catchy songs with an accompanying stupid-easy dance. But this came out in 2002, which was about five years after Macarena saturation and overload— 14 weeks at #1 for the Los Del Rio song, every goddamn wedding and team building company retreat ever after for the dance. Also, things were good in the summer of ’96, the summer of the Macarena: the economy was good, we weren’t involved in any wars. In 2002, we were far too dark-spirited with high terror alerts and high unemployment to cheese out on a wacky foreign song and its wacky foreign dance. But really, we were still sick of the Macarena.
It’s completely cheesy, completely forgettable, dumb fun Euro dance nonsense. Which means it was spread across Europe like disease-inflected fleas on medieval rats. “Asserjé” went to #1 in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain of course, and also Japan. They even made a version of the song partially in English and partially in Spanish. The entire rest of the English-speaking world, the whole of the Commonwealth, ate it up. The Spanglish version went to #1 in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Canada.
The record label lazily and cynically renamed it “The Ketchup Song” for non-English speakers. The group is a sister act (they’re the Spanish Corrs!) and are the daughters of flamenco guitarist Juan Munoz, nicknamed El Tomate, so, you know, ketchup. Without knowing this joke though, “Ketchup” in a song doesn’t make sense and it’s kind of gross. It just conjures up images of messy babies, pig rectum-filled hot dogs, and Teresa Heinz Kerry, not foxy girl groups and line dances.