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Rickrolling, alternatively rick-rolling, 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. The victims, believing that they are accessing some unrelated material, are said to have been rickrolled.[1] The trend has extended to disruptive or humorous appearances of the song in other situations, such as a live appearance of Astley himself in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.[2]


"Never Gonna Give You Up" appeared on Astley's 1987 debut album Whenever You Need Somebody.[3] 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.[4]

The song's eventual Internet popularity may be traced back to a 2005 episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, "Charlie Has Cancer", in which the song is used quite prominently. Rickrolling was reported to have begun as a variant of an earlier prank from the imageboard 4chan known as duckrolling. The director of the site, who went by the name "m00t," started replacing occurrences of the word "egg" on the site with the word "duck." When the word "eggroll" was turned into "duckroll," users started changing links to sensational pictures or news items so that they instead connected users to an edited picture of a duck with wheels; the user was then said to have been "duckrolled."[1][5]

The first known instance of a rickroll occurred in May 2007 on /v/, 4chan's video game board. The first trailer for the game Grand Theft Auto IV was unavailable due to heavy traffic, and a link claiming to be a mirror to the trailer connected users to the Rick Astley video. The joke was confined to 4chan for a very brief period.[1]

By May 2008,[6] the practice had spread beyond 4chan and became an Internet phenomenon,[7] eventually attracting coverage in the mainstream media.[8] An April 2008 poll by SurveyUSA estimated that at least 18 million American adults had been rickrolled.[9]

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.[10] The term has been extended to simple hidden use of the song's lyrics.[11] 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 a pianist.[12]

The original video[13] on YouTube from 2007 used for rickrolling was removed for terms-of-use violations in February 2010[14] but the takedown was revoked within a day.[15] It was taken down again on 18 July 2014.[16] It has since been unblocked again and has gained over 78 million views as of November 2018.[13] The RickAstleyVEVO channel uploaded another version[17] on 24 October 2009 which has had over 500 million views as of November 2018.

On August 25, 2019, a major Rickroll happened at Petco Park in San Diego, long after Rickrolling had ceased to be a meme of note. The Boston Red Sox were playing a Major League Baseball game in San Diego against the San Diego Padres, where the Red Sox had not played in six years. During a mid-inning break, the Padres' scoreboard began to rather surprisingly play "Sweet Caroline", which has become a tradition at Red Sox home games – but the Red Sox were the opposition in San Diego. As the Neil Diamond song was about to hit the chorus, however, the videoboard suddenly switched to "Never Gonna Give You Up", much to the amusement of the crowd.[18]

Effects on Astley and reaction

In a March 2008 interview, 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."[19] 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".[5]

In November 2008, Rick Astley was nominated for "Best Act Ever" at the MTV Europe Music Awards after the online nomination form was flooded with votes.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22]

In 2009, Astley wrote about 4chan founder moot for Time magazine's annual Time 100 issue, and thanked moot for the rickrolling phenomenon.[23]

According to The Register, as of 2010, Astley had only directly received $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.[24]

Its meme status led to the song’s usage in the post-credits scene for Walt Disney Animation Studios’s 2018 film Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. The film Bumblebee was also rickrolled on its teaser trailer.[25]

See also

  • List of Internet phenomena

  • List of practical joke topics


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