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Remember this banger? The enduring charm of Luis Miguel’s ‘Ahora Te Puedes Marchar’

Illustration of Luis Miguel
(Natalia Agatte / For De Los)
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Welcome to “Remember This Banger?” — a series in which we’ll periodically revisit some of Latin music’s most enduring and beloved songs.

At the age of 11, Luis Miguel had already released his first album. He would be catapulted into fame less than a decade later, making him one of the most influential Spanish-language pop singers of the last few decades.

In 1987, the singer released “Soy Como Quiero Ser,” which received a Grammy nomination for Latin pop performance. As a kid growing up in the ‘90s, this is the kind of album that I likely heard during car rides or on the radio at home. Now you can easily find his bops on Spotify or watch his videos on YouTube — and it’s clear his significance hasn’t waned as a younger generation continues to play his songs. (Not to mention the constant interest in his career trajectory and life, as evidenced by “Luis Miguel: The Series,” released by Netflix in 2018.)

One of the most popular tracks on the 1987 album, “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar” is Miguel’s cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Wanna Be With You,” a realization that didn’t hit me until I heard the latter in a cafe. I knew I recognized that melody, but the lyrics sounded totally different from the Luis Miguel song I could sing by heart.

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Originally performed and released by Springfield in 1963, “I Only Wanna Be With You” details a lover’s tender feelings toward her beau. Fans loved it. According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Springfield was only the second major English artist (The Beatles were the first) to take U.S. audiences by storm as part of the “British Invasion.”

Whereas Springfield’s song is sweet and pining, the Luismi track stings in its righteous resentment of a lover who let him down. In Luis Gómez Escolar’s songwriting, the song doesn’t function as a direct translation of Springfield’s hit. Instead, Escolar weaves a story about parting from a lover, and refusing to take them back.

A TV with pixelated face of Luis Miguel
(Natalia Agatte / For De Los)

Springfield’s song includes sweeping violins, adding to the romantic energy of the track, while Miguel’s rendition incorporates a high-energy saxophone solo. Decades later, “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar’’ still slaps, thanks to a groovy bass line and the kind of intentional music production that makes for verified bops. Try sitting totally still while listening to it.

The song’s music video, uploaded 15 years ago to YouTube, has more than 700 million views. I get the appeal: it’s a perfectly preserved time capsule of the ‘80s. Miguel wears a slouchy leather jacket with the sleeves rolled up; the dancers behind him sport high ponytails, deep-V tank tops and zip-up sweater vests. A wide shot captures their high-energy dance moves, which feel akin to the era’s aerobics workouts.

Miguel shimmies his shoulders in all the right parts, even as he approaches his ex-lover (whose hair is incredible, I might add) while angrily serenading her. (I’d love to hear her side of the love story, but that’s a topic for another time). There’s a fun vibe in both the song and video, despite Miguel basically telling his former beau to buzz off.

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Of course, in this day and age, social media can bring a whole new context to songs. The groovy quality of “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar’’ continues to reach new generations. On TikTok, users added the sound to videos of everything from a Duvalin iced latte recipe to outfit ideas inspired by paletas and makeup tutorials. At last check, 128,000 videos have used the song on the app.

Song covers that take the original’s structure but add a new meaning aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Earlier this year, Karol G. released “颁辞苍迟颈驳辞,” with Ti?sto, a song that borrows from Leona Lewis’ 2007 hit “Bleeding Love.” But rather than a straightforward translation of the song’s original chorus — where the refrain “I keep bleeding love” is repeated — Karol G.’s version focuses on the titular “contigo,” singing to a lover about how she can’t possibly live life without them. The sentiment is similar, but Karol G.’s track could be interpreted as either side of a bittersweet love story: the joy of finding someone who makes your life complete or the fear of losing a lover.

Illustration of a silver CD with rainbow colors
(Natalia Agatte / For De Los)

When it comes to “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar” and its success as a cover, it’s interesting to note that both the song and its inspiration were significant to the artists behind them. Both tracks helped launch the careers of Springfield and Miguel. In 1987, the song was Miguel’s first No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. “I Only Wanna Be With You” was Springfield’s first solo track after leaving the pop trio the Springfields, solidifying her career as a singer to watch. According to the New York Times, her star really rose between 1964 and 1967, when “11 of her singles hit the American pop charts.”

In an interview not long after the song’s release, Miguel talked about how this chapter of his career is about singing what he knows — and what he feels. In “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar” he learns the sting of heartbreak, and the satisfaction of rejecting a lover who wants to come back. Though you don’t need that context to enjoy the track. New York Times food reporter Priya Krishna, writing for the “Pop Culture Happy Hour” podcast, says it’s easy to love: “Dare I say it’s better than the Dusty Springfield original? It is such a bop.”

The song’s appeal is international: In 2019, Korean boy band Super Junior created a faithful rendition of Luis Miguel’s classic ‘80s music video for the track (complete with Luismi-style wigs). You hear a lot more brass, and the bass line is more active. The band clearly enjoyed reviving the music video frame-by-frame. The song reminds us that heartbreak can result in a generation-spanning hit.

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Eva Recinos is an arts and culture journalist and creative nonfiction writer based in Los Angeles. She is the creator of “Notes From Eva,” a free monthly newsletter for creatives.

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