Rickrolling or a Rickroll, is an internet meme involving the unexpected appearance of the music video for the 1987 song "Never Gonna Give You Up", performed by the English singer Rick Astley. The video has over 1 billion views on YouTube. The meme is a type of bait and switch, usually 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 they have been "Rickrolled". The meme has also extended to using the song's lyrics, or singing it, in unexpected contexts. Rick Astley has also been Rickrolled on several occasions.
The meme grew out of a similar bait-and-switch trick called "duck rolling" that was popular on the 4chan website in 2006. The video bait-and-switch trick grew popular on 4chan by 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.
Rick Astley, who had only returned to performing after a 10-year hiatus, was initially hesitant about using his newfound popularity from the meme to further his career but accepted the fame by Rickrolling the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with a surprise performance of the song. Since then, Rick Astley has seen his performance career revitalized by the meme's popularity.
"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.
The use of the song for rickrolling dates to 2006, originating from the 4chan imageboard in an early meme known as "duck rolling". 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 stated to be "duck rolled".
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 duck rolling 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 adding the name "rickrolling" based on the prior "duck rolling".
A precursor of "rickrolling" occurred in 2006, when rural Michigan resident Erik Helwig called in to a local radio sports-talk show and, instead of conversing with the DJs, played "Never Gonna Give You Up", leaving the DJs speechless. While this occurred before 4chan's use of the song, 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 animated 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, along with 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.
In 2011, members of the Oregon, USA legislature slipped snippets of the song's lyrics into speeches they gave on the floor of the legislature. Aides later stitched together a video compilation of these snippets into a full song, released on YouTube.
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 was later unblocked again and gained over 89 million views by 2021. It was once again taken down in July 2021 for “Violating YouTube's Terms of Service” but as of May 2022[update] the video is currently viewable again. The official Rick Astley channel uploaded another version on 24 October 2009, which surpassed one-billion views in July 2021.
Its meme status led to the song's usage in pop culture. In 2015 on Neon Mixtape Tour - Day 32, in Plants vs. Zombies 2, Dr. Zomboss referenced that song before attacking the player. In 2016, that song was played in The Angry Birds Movie in a scene when Mighty Eagle practiced how to fly. It was also referenced in four episodes of the twentieth season of South Park. The post-credits scene for Walt Disney Animation Studios' 2018 sequel film Ralph Breaks the Internet after a "sneak peek" of Frozen II suddenly transitioned into Ralph singing a cover of "Never Gonna Give You Up", and replicating Astley's dance from the original music video. 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 there was a notable large-scale occurrence 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 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 worldwide 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. Nintendo and The Pokémon Company had announced 1 July 2021 as "Bidoof Day" with plans for a major announcement for the Pokémon series, which turned out to be a rickroll using a parody of "Never Gonna Give You Up". Later that month, the meme resulted in the music video for "Never Gonna Give You Up" reaching 1 billion views, becoming the fourth 1980s song to do so.
In the tenth episode of the second season of Ted Lasso, "No Weddings and a Funeral", the main character prepares to give a eulogy but instead breaks out into leading the attendees in singing "Never Gonna Give You Up", effectively rickrolling the attendees and the audience. Greta Thunberg rickrolled her followers on April Fools' day 2021 (1 April) by posting a link to "a climate-related video" which linked to Astley's music video. She followed this on 16 October 2021 at the Climate Live concert in Stockholm by saying, during a speech with important messages on climate action, "We're no strangers to love ... You know the rules and so do I", followed by singing the song and dancing to it, to great applause; Astley tweeted his thanks.
Researchers have found that rickrolling occurs in academic literature.
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 of 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 fact, the first time he was rickrolled actually pre-dated the viral phenomenon. 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. On a Reddit post in June 2020, a user, u/theMalleableDuck, claimed to have met Astley backstage when they were 12 years old, but the user 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 submission became the most upvoted post of 2020 on Reddit.
- List of Internet phenomena
- List of most-viewed YouTube videos
- List of practical joke topics
- Sandstorm (instrumental), an instrumental piece by Finnish DJ Darude that has become the subject of a similar internet meme.
- goatse.cx, the shock bait and switch precursor to Rickrolling.
- Has Rick Astley ever been "Rick-rolled"?. Larry King Now. 25 January 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2020 – via YouTube.
- Melissa Locker (18 June 2020). "New Internet Legend Manages to Rick Roll Rick Astley". Time. Archived from the original on 18 June 2020. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
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!"
- "New Internet Legend Manages to Rick Roll Rick Astley". Time. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
- Kooser, Amanda. "Rick Astley had a relatable first reaction to Rickrolling". CNET. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
- "YouTube RickRolls Users". TechCrunch. April 2008. Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
- Henderson, Alex. "Whenever You Need Somebody review". Allmusic. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
- Hasty, Katie (5 April 2008). "'80s singer Rick Astley latest Web phenomenon". Reuters. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
- "The Biggest Little Internet Hoax on Wheels Hits Mainstream". Fox News Channel. Fox News Channel. 22 April 2008. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
- "An Oral History of Rickrolling". Mel Magazine. 10 January 2020. Archived from the original on 18 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- "You Wouldn't Get This From Any Other Pollster". SurveyUSA. 9 April 2008. Archived from the original on 12 April 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
- Michaels, Sean (19 March 2008). "Taking the Rick". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 July 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Nussenbaum, Evelyn (24 March 2008). "The '80s Video That Pops Up, Online and Off". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Wortham, Jenna (1 April 2008). "YouTube 'Rickrolls' Everyone". Wired. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Friedman, Emily (30 April 2008). "'Rick Rolling' Ruins Mets Vote". ABC News. Archived from the original on 20 September 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Peck, Sally (10 April 2008). "Rickrolled: New York Mets fall victim to Rick Astley online prank". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Moore, Matthew (7 November 2008). "Rickrolling: Rick Astley named Best Act Ever at the MTV Europe Music Awards". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 October 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- van Buskirk, Eliot (26 March 2008). "Rick Astley Addresses the Rickroll Phenomenon". Wired. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Moore, Matthew (28 November 2008). "Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade: Rick Astley performs his own Rickroll". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Parker, Lindsay (27 November 2019). "Rick Astley talks Rickrolling the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, jamming with Dave Grohl, and why he never cared about being 'one of the cool kids'". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 18 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Leckart, Steven (September 2009). "The Official Prankonomy: From rickrolls to malware, a spectrum of stunts". Wired. Vol. 17, no. 9. pp. 91–93. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
- Christopher, Hooton (17 January 2014). "Teacher Rickrolled by inspired quantum physics essay". The Independent. Archived from the original on 17 February 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- Whitbrook, James (10 April 2018). "The Stars of Westworld Make 25-Minute Long 'Spoiler' Video Just to Troll Fans". io9. Archived from the original on 26 April 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
- Peralta, Eyder (13 April 2013). "Rickrolled: Or How One Politician Overcame Partisan Divide To Pull A Prank". All Things Considered. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
- A bipartisan group of legislators won't give up on Oregon, retrieved 25 August 2022
- cotter548 (15 May 2007). RickRoll'D. YouTube. Archived from the original on 28 July 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- Silverman, Dwight. "Rickroll'd no more: Internet meme takedown! Archived 23 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine" Houston Chronicle. 24 February 2010. Retrieved on 24 February 2010.
- McCarthy, Caroline (24 February 2010). "YouTube gives up on original 'Rickroll'". CNET. Archived from the original on 26 April 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
- Schneider, Marc (18 July 2014). "YouTube Blocks Original RickRoll Video". Billboard. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
- RickAstleyVEVO (24 October 2009). Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up. YouTube. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- D'Angelo, Bob (28 July 2021). "A billion rick-rolls: Rick Astley video tops 1 billion YouTube views". KIRO 7 News. Cox Media Group National Content Desk. Retrieved 29 July 2021.
- Topham, Michelle (8 December 2016). "Listen to Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' from 'South Park' — Yep, It's the Meme". Leo Sigh.
- "Bumblebee movie trailer: Even Transformers get Rickrolled". CNET. 5 June 2018. Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
- "Man sets up Rick Astley hotline to rescue people from annoying salespeople". Newshub. 7 January 2018. Archived from the original on 9 June 2020.
- Chesterston, Eric (26 August 2019). "The Padres owned Red Sox fans with a devastating Rick Roll during 'Sweet Caroline'". www.mlb.com. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- Schofield, Dave (14 October 2019). "The Chargers' attempted "Rick Roll" of the Steelers in Week 6 fails miserably". www.behindthesteelcurtain.com. Archived from the original on 3 January 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- "Chargers not happy that 'Renegade' played during Sunday's game". www.wpxi.com. 14 October 2019. Archived from the original on 15 February 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- "You Can Now 'Rick Roll' Your Zoom Meetings". Nerdist. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- "Rick Astley's Rick Roll meme goes viral again with disturbing 4K remaster". Dexerto. 18 February 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- "Rickroll your eyeballs into oblivion with remastered "Never Gonna Give You Up": Watch". Consequence of Sound. 18 February 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- Walker, Ian (1 July 2021). "Stunned Pokémon Fans Bask In Official 'Bidoof Day' Rickroll". Kotaku. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
- Spangler, Todd (29 July 2021). "Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' Rolls Past 1 Billion YouTube Views". Variety. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
- Orr, Christopher (24 September 2021). "'Ted Lasso' Recap, Season 2, Episode 10: The Naked and the Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
- Ball, Siobhan (1 April 2021). "Greta Thunberg pulls off a vintage prank on April Fools' Day". The Daily Dot.
- Qureshi, Arusa (18 October 2021). "Rick Astley approves Greta Thunberg's Rickrolling". NME.
- Kulp, Patrick. "AAA Rickrolls Its Own Customers (in a Good Way)". Adweek. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
- Baudry, Benoit; Monperrus, Martin (14 April 2022). "Exhaustive Survey of Rickrolling in Academic Literature". Proceedings of SIGBOVIK. arXiv:2204.06826.
- Sarno, David (25 March 2008). "Web Scout exclusive! Rick Astley, king of the 'Rickroll,' talks about his song's second coming". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
- "Astley shortlisted for MTV award". BBC News. 2 October 2008. Archived from the original on 23 December 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
- "WTF MTV?". Bestactever.com. 10 October 2008. Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
- "Rick Brands MTV win 'Ridiculous'". BBC News. 7 November 2008. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
- "The 2009 TIME 100: moot". 30 April 2009. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- "German judge chides Google over YouTube freeloading". The Register. 31 August 2010. Archived from the original on 30 March 2020. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "[AMA] I'm really Rick Astley. I swear. And to celebrate my first album since 1993, I'm here to let you Ask Me Anything!". Reddit. 7 October 2016. Archived from the original on 18 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
- "New Internet Legend Manages to Rick Roll Rick Astley". Archived from the original on 21 June 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
- Marcin, Tim (8 December 2020). "Rick Astley getting rickrolled was Reddit's most upvoted post in 2020". Mashable. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
- Kasulke, Calvin (22 March 2021). "Goatse: The Original Meme and its Origin Explained". MEL Magazine. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
- Horowitz, Etan (28 March 2008). "Friday Picks: Wired on the gadget blog wars, Rick Astley on the 'Rickroll', church sign about Google". OrlandoSentinel.com. Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Savage, Marg (1 April 2008). "Rickrolling and the league of web fame". BBC News. BBC News. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Ingram, Matthew (31 March 2008). "Rick Astley, born again via YouTube". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. Archived from the original on 5 April 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Johnson, Steve (1 April 2008). "On the first day of April: Another Google prank and Rick, rolling along". Hypertext – The wide world of the web. Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 6 December 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Leahy, Brian (28 March 2008). "New York Times Gets Rick Roll'd". The Feed: The Only News You Need To Know. G4 TV. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- McCarthy, Caroline (26 March 2008). "'Rickrolled basketball game' video is '80s pop fiction". CNET News. CNET Networks, Inc. Archived from the original on 3 August 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Newborn, Andrew (1 April 2008). "Dumb Internet memes are teh suck". The Gateway. University of Alberta. Archived from the original on 4 April 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Pegoraro, Rob (1 April 2008). "April Foolin'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Reynolds, Simon (28 March 2008). "Astley calls 'Rickrolling' craze 'brilliant'". Digital Spy. Digital Spy Limited. Archived from the original on 2 April 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Sleiman, Jad; Ben Penn (1 April 2008). "Prank gives song new life". Diamondback Online. University of Maryland. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Staff (31 March 2008). "Astley prank storms web: A new internet craze known as 'rickrolling' has thrust Newton-le-Willows' 1980s pop star Rick Astley back into the spotlight". BBC News. BBC. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Staff (28 March 2008). "Rick Astley 'Rick Roll' video prank becomes web phenomenon". MSN Money UK. MSN. Archived from the original on 31 March 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Sternberg, Andy (25 March 2008). "Rick Astley Calls Rickroll 'Hilarious,' 'Bizarre'; Plans Arena Tour, But Can He Still Dance?". LAist. Gothamist LLC. Archived from the original on 30 March 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
- Wells, Steven (9 April 2008). "Opening Riff". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
- Tossell, Ivor (17 April 2008). "They're never gonna give you up, Rick". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on 21 April 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2008.