No. 14: The Internet Is Never Gonna Give Rick Astley Up
Oh, sure, the phenomenon of “rickrolling”—in which an unsuspecting Web browser is led to an online rip of Rick Astley’s Stock/Aitken/Waterman-penned hit “Never Gonna Give You Up,” for the sole purpose of bringing lulz—originated in 2007. But it wasn’t until 2008 that shocking people with a little bit of gleaming, synth-drum-laden blue-eyed soul really took on a life of its own outside of the Internet’s echo chambers, perplexing baseball fans, Thanksgiving parade watchers, and other people who were inadvertently reminded of the redheaded British crooner’s existence by the ever-increasing hordes of people who were in on the joke.
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Proving that the sheer closed-circuit effect of the Internet can result in people flogging a joke long after its humor quotient has been exorcised, the Rickroll metastized way beyond the Web in 2008, even though the amount of funny in said gesture decreased each time a group of Internet users tried to give the song “its due.” It was the first thing to make Mets fans really boo loudly this season (though not, sadly, the last). It took on Tokio Hotel (and won) thanks to the Internet poll that deduced MTV Europe’s “best act ever,” and got covered from both ends of the generational spectrum thanks to versions by Ashley Tisdale and Barry Manilow. And Astley even lipsynced his hit at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, causing many a breakfast table to break down over discussions over the finer points of Digg and causing irony-impared users of that social-news site to freak out over one of their jokes’ butts actually playing along, instead of issuing cease and desists all over the place.
Sure, the song’s ubiquity online might be moot if Sony BMG pitches a fit at online-video sites and yanks its videos from embeds around the WWW. But for now, I’ll content myself with the version of the Rickroll that gave me the highest amount of personal pleasure:
SAW, come back! The pop world needs you.