Rickrolling, alternatively Rick-rolling or Rickroll, is a prank and an Internet meme involving an unexpected appearance of the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a type of bait and switch using a disguised hyperlink that leads to the music video. When victims click on a seemingly unrelated link, the site with the music video loads instead of what was expected, and in doing so they are said to have been "Rickrolled". The meme has also extended to using the song's lyrics in unexpected places.
The meme grew out from a similar bait-and-switch trick called "duckrolling" that was popular on the 4chan website in 2006. The video bait-and-switch trick grew popular on 4chan by the 2007 April Fools' Day, and spread to other Internet sites later that year. The meme gained mainstream attention in 2008 through several publicized events, particularly when YouTube used it on its 2008 April Fools' Day event.
Initially, Astley, who had only recently returned to performing after a ten-year hiatus, was hesitant about using his newfound popularity from the meme to further his career, but accepted the fame when he Rickrolled the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with a surprise performance of the song. Since then, Astley has seen his performance career revitalized by the meme's popularity. Astley himself has also been Rickrolled several times.
"Never Gonna Give You Up" appeared on Astley's 1987 debut album Whenever You Need Somebody. The song, his solo debut single, was a number-one hit on several international charts, including the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks, and the UK Singles Chart. The accompanying music video, Astley's first, features him performing the song while dancing. It has since become a popular song on the Internet, particularly after it was featured in the 2005 "Charlie Has Cancer" episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The use of the song for rickrolling dates to 2006, originating from the 4chan imageboard in an early meme known as "duckrolling". Sometime in 2006, the site moderator, Christopher "m00t" Poole, implemented a word filter replacing the word "egg" with "duck" as a gag. On one thread, where "eggroll" had become "duckroll", an anonymous user posted an edited image of a duck with wheels, calling it a "duckroll". The image caught on across 4chan; the image would be the target of a hyperlink with an otherwise interesting title, with a user clicking through having been said to be "duckrolled".
In March 2007, the first trailer for the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto IV was released onto the Rockstar Games website. Viewership was so high that it crashed Rockstar's site. Several users helped to post mirrors of the video on different sites, but one user on 4chan had linked to the "Never Gonna Give You Up" video claiming to be the trailer, tricking numerous readers into the bait-and-switch. This practice quickly replaced duckrolling for other alluring links, all generally pointing to Astley's video, and thus creating the practice of "rickrolling". The bait-and-switch to "Never Gonna Give You Up" greatly expanded on 4chan on April Fools' Day in 2007, and led to the trick expanding to other sites like Fark and Digg later that year, quickly gaining the name "rickrolling" based on the prior "duckrolling".
An initial use of "rickrolling" was confirmed by the editors of Know Your Meme, where rural Michigan resident Erik Helwig had called into a local radio sports-talk show in 2006 and instead of conversing with the DJs, simply played "Never Gonna Give You Up", leaving the DJs speechless. While this occurred before the 4chan use, Know Your Meme editor-in-chief Don Caldwell said there was no direct confirmation of whether it had inspired the 4chan use of the video.
Growth in 2008
One of the first public events involved the Church of Scientology, which had been aggressively trying to censor videos critical of the church. The Internet group Anonymous, as part of their Project Chanology to challenge this censoring, protested at the Church's various headquarters across the globe by chanting the song, among other activities. A number of collegiate basketball games in March 2008 had people dressing up as Astley from the video and lip-syncing to the music as a prank before the start of the game. YouTube's 2008 April Fools joke made featured video hyperlinks on the site's home page end up on the music video. In April 2008, the New York Mets baseball team asked fans on the internet what song they should use for their eighth-inning rally song. "Never Gonna Give You Up" received a massive number of votes, driven by websites like 4chan. At the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards, an online campaign led to Astley being named the "Best Act Ever" despite not being on the original shortlist of nominees, effectively rickrolling the awards.
By November 2008, the "Never Gonna Give You Up" video on YouTube had more than 20 million views and was considered a viral video; however, Astley initially appeared indifferent to the newfound fame. When Astley was asked about the trend of rickrolling during an interview in March 2008, he stated, "it's weird", since he had not performed much lately, but he found the interest funny. However, at the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Astley made a surprise appearance on a float of the TV show Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends for Cartoon Network to lip-sync the song to the crowd and television audiences, making that performance the largest rickroll to date. According to Astley, Cartoon Network had urged him to perform for the parade along with a large performance payment, and although he had been wary of trying to promote himself using the popularity of the meme, he decided to go for it.
In September 2009, Wired magazine published a guide to modern hoaxes which listed rickrolling as one of the better known beginner-level hoaxes, alongside the fake e-mail chain letter. The term has been extended to simple hidden use of the song's lyrics. Cover versions of "Never Gonna Give You Up" have also been used as part of rickrolling; in April 2018, the creators of TV's Westworld released a video that purported to be a spoiler guide for the entire second season in advance, but instead featured lead actress Evan Rachel Wood singing the song while accompanied by another main actress, Angela Sarafyan, playing the piano.
The most popular upload of the music video on YouTube from 2007 used for rickrolling, titled "RickRoll'D", was removed for terms-of-use violations in February 2010 but the takedown was revoked within a day. It was taken down again on 18 July 2014. It has since been unblocked again and has gained over 89 million views as of March 2021[update]. The official Rick Astley channel uploaded another version on 24 October 2009, which has over 900 million views as of March 2021[update].
Its meme status led to the song's usage in the post-credits scene for Walt Disney Animation Studios's 2018 sequel film Ralph Breaks the Internet after a "sneak peek" of Frozen II suddenly transitioned into "Never Gonna Give You Up". The song also appears in the film Bumblebee, and was featured at the end of its initial teaser trailer.
On 5 January 2018, Paul Fenwick announced that he had started several Rick Astley hotlines, which when called, would play "Never Gonna Give You Up" along with several other artists' adaptations of it. Paul Fenwick advertised it by saying, "You are encouraged to use them for paperwork, loyalty schemes, and general joy."
On 25 August 2019, a notable large-scale occurrence happened at Petco Park in San Diego during a Major League Baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the San Diego Padres—the first game that the Red Sox played at Petco Park in six years. During a mid-inning break, the Padres' scoreboard began to play "Sweet Caroline"—a tradition at Red Sox home games in Fenway Park—but the Red Sox were the opposition in San Diego. As the Neil Diamond song was about to reach the chorus, however, the video-board suddenly switched to "Never Gonna Give You Up", much to the amusement of the crowd.
On 13 October 2019, the Sunday night NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park featured a case of rickrolling when the PA announcers, after a Chargers touchdown brought the score to 24-10 Pittsburgh, decided to troll the partisan crowd by playing the beginning of the Styx song "Renegade" (which had been played at the Steelers home Heinz Field since 2001) only to transition into "Never Gonna Give You Up". The stunt caught fans and players from both teams by surprise (even being acknowledged by the Steelers official social media accounts), and some Chargers players were not happy about the Steelers anthem being played in their own home stadium. The Steelers won the game 24–17.
Rickrolling saw a massive resurgence online in the early 2020s. In online classes on Zoom during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, students often rickrolled their classmates and teachers. A 4K remaster of the "Never Gonna Give You Up" music video went viral in early 2021.
In an interview in March 2008, Astley said that he found the rickrolling of Scientology to be "hilarious"; he also said that he will not try to capitalise on the rickroll phenomenon with a new recording or remix of his own, but that he would be happy to have other artists remix it. Overall, Astley is not troubled by the phenomenon, stating that he finds it "bizarre and funny" and that his only concern is that his "daughter doesn't get embarrassed about it." A spokesperson for Astley's record label released a comment which showed that Astley's interest with the phenomenon had faded, as they stated, "I'm sorry, but he's done talking about Rickrolling".
In November 2008, Astley was nominated for "Best Act Ever" at the MTV Europe Music Awards after the online nomination form was flooded with votes. The push to make Astley the winner of the award, as well as efforts to encourage MTV to personally invite Astley to the awards ceremony, continued after the announcement. On 10 October, Astley's website confirmed that an invitation to the awards had been received. On 6 November 2008, just hours before the ceremony was due to air, it was reported that MTV Europe did not want to give Astley the award at the ceremony, instead wanting to present it at a later date. Many fans who voted for Astley felt the awards ceremony failed to acknowledge him as a legitimate artist. Astley stated in an interview that he felt the award was "daft", but noted that he thought that "MTV were thoroughly rickrolled", and went on to thank everyone who voted for him. In 2009, Astley wrote about 4chan founder moot for Time magazine's annual Time 100 issue, thanking moot for the rickrolling phenomenon.
According to The Register, as of 2010[update], Astley had directly received only $12 in performance royalties from YouTube. Although by that time the song had been played 39 million times, Astley did not compose the song and received only a performer's share of the sound recording copyright. However, Astley denied those reports in 2016.
Astley himself has been rickrolled a few times. In an interview with Larry King, Astley stated that the first time he fell for the prank was through an email his friend sent him during the early 2000s. More recently, on a Reddit post in June 2020, a user, u/theMalleableDuck, claimed to have met Rick Astley backstage when they were 12 years old, but posted a link to the song instead of a picture verifying the encounter. Astley later confirmed he had been tricked into clicking the link. The post became the most upvoted post of 2020 on Reddit.
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The trick was so seamlessly perfect that Astley had no choice but to applaud it by posting a clap emoji, and then called out the clever user in his sign off post, saying, "u/theMalleableDuck I salute you!"
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