Rick Astley Talks TikTok and the Infamous Rickrolling Meme: 'I Don't Click'

Anyone who's ever surfed the web has probably been victim to the global Rickrolling prank, where you click a link only to be taken to the 1980s hit "Never Gonna Give You Up."

It was Rick Astley's first single, and reached number one in 25 countries, but the song reared its head once more some two decades after it was released in 1987, and got a new lease of life online.

The now enduring image of Astley, 55, in a beige trench coat has spawned numerous parodies and even costumes, with the viral prank reaching as far as the White House.

Speaking to Newsweek, he said: "It's kind of strange obviously, I mean let's just put this in perspective, 'Never Gonna Give You Up,' my first single, that song, the internet didn't even exist, the internet was somebody's dream.

"So for that song to have its own little place on the internet, and the Rickrolling thing, is pretty amazing and a bit weird at times if I'm honest. But it has been pretty amazing, I can't really grumble about it because it's brought that song to a few different generations now, so it's been pretty amazing.

"And there's been some really good fun things come out of it as well, I've done things with people I never would have got the chance to do without Rickrolling, so I can't have anything negative to say about it."

In 2008, the year after Rickrolling took off, Astley was invited to the traditional Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade where he pranked bystanders and millions more watching at home.

Astley, from the U.K., remembers it well, saying: "I got to Rickroll the Macy's Day Parade in New York which we've all seen in a bunch of different movies

"I remember calling a bunch of friends in America and saying I've been invited to go up and do this thing in the parade, on one of the floats and everything, and everybody without exception just screamed back down the phone you got to do this, you've got to do this.

"And I don't think they would have had me sing that song, just to sing the song, it was about Rickrolling the TV show, the float I was on and all the rest of it."

He's embraced the Rickrolling sensation, and even recreated the iconic song for his second-ever TikTok clip, which gained 23 million views, after joining the social media site in 2020.

Dubbed RickTok, he said: "One of the ones I did also was I jet washed my wheelie bins to Dua Lipa, who wouldn't want to do that. In a lilac suit by the way, from 1980-whatever, which I still own. I just kind of felt it's somewhere to have a bit of fun."

When asked if it's one of his original outfits from that era, Astley replied: "Oh yeah baby, oh yeah. The trousers have to be assisted, the jacket I can still get into, but the trousers, not a chance, they have to be kind of like, there's safety pins and things going on there."

It's a different story with the trench coat, as he said: "So the raincoat thing, I have to be coerced into that. Sometimes I can see the fun side of it, when I see somebody at one of the gigs wherever in the world that we play, somebody comes in that raincoat it's funny, I get it, it's like fancy dress almost you know."

And when asked if he kept, and wears, anything else from the '80s, Astley replied "that would be telling."

But he revealed there's a cruise ship singer who arguably has the best outfits in the business, saying: "My mum had a wardrobe in her house that had outfits of mine from back in the day, and I'm talking about Jean Paul Gaultier suits, this is like, primo amazing stuff.

"And she gave it all to a friend of a friend of a friend who sings on cruise ships, so there's a guy singing on a cruise ship somewhere. I'd like some of it back, but there you go."

TikTok has brought Astley and his music to a new generation who may have never been acquainted with his back catalog if it wasn't for Rickrolling.

He joked: "I'm not going to name a name here because I don't want to, but I was speaking to a 27-year-old artist who's out quite a few hits recently and they said to me they felt they were too old for the TikTok generation, I was just like get my coat and hat and I'll just leave right now."

His video recreating the song, complete with dance moves, prompted numerous fans to ask if they've just been Rickrolled by the man himself in the comment section.

Astley himself isn't immune to the viral prank, but admits he's pretty good at spotting a dodgy link.

He said: "I wouldn't say I've been accidentally Rickrolled, but I've certainly been Rickrolled. Most of my friends and colleagues and people I know say have you seen this one, have you seen this one, I've seen them all, I have seen them all.

"But the first time I ever heard about it we were on holiday in Italy, and my friend who lives in America, he's an English friend, I've known him forever, and he Rickrolled me basically.

"I emailed him back going, what are you doing, and he did it again, I said seriously what are you doing. In the end we got on the phone and he kind of explained it to me and I still didn't really get it, because it's a long time ago now.

"But in terms of being Rickrolled recently, I'm pretty good at recognizing what a Rickroll is if you know what I mean, so I don't click."

And referring to his favorite ever Rickrolls, he added: "I don't know what you call it an actual Rickroll, but I love what people have done in terms of some of the big TV shows of the last ten years.

"Where they've actually taken the actors and cut up their dialogue so they end up singing never gonna give you up and stuff like that, I mean Mad Men did it, or somebody did it for Mad Men I should say.

"They've had a couple of presidents do it as well, they actually cut up their speeches so they end up singing 'Never Gonna Give You Up.' And that's not technically a Rickroll I know, but I kind of think these are the things that have spun off it. It still makes me giggle."

Some other noteworthy Rickrolls include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's video where she presented the Capitol Cat Cam, coinciding with the launch of the Househub YouTube channel in 2009.

Elsewhere in politics, the White House's official Twitter page directed users to the video in 2011, in a tweet discussing fiscal policy.

In 2011 a bipartisan effort was undertaken by the Oregon legislature to weave the song lyrics into their speeches, cutting it up to have the politicians effectively singing the song. While YouTube made every link on their site redirect to the song as part of an epic April Fools Day prank in 2008.

The song now boasts more than 1 billion views on the site, achieving the accolade in 2020.

Reflecting on the numbers, partly due to Rickrolling, he said: "So to some degree unless you are deadly serious about the music that you've made, unless it's like got a message in it that needs to be taken completely seriously, then you have to take it all with a bit of a pinch of salt you know I mean and that's kind of what I do sometimes with regards to that.

"You know someone saying you've had a billion views, I go great. Okay, because when I was younger, when I was starting out we didn't use the term billion very often. Seriously I don't want to get all kind of Austin Powers, kind of like, a billion dollars

"But that's what it was. A billion was just ridiculous number to say."

While his TikTok videos have yet to reach that figure, fans of Astley's are being invited to duet with the star as part of his new RickTok challenge, using the hashtag #FritoLayRickRoll, and there's also $18,000 up for grabs.

For the second year running, Astley is part of the "New Year New You" campaign, in partnership with Frito Lay, which will see 18 people winning themselves $1,000.

Kicking off on December 27, fans are invited to go to www.nevergonnagiveitup.com and share what they're never giving up, with two winners announced every week until the end of February.

He said: "The idea is to duet with me, the idea is we've had quite a pretty negative couple years so just have a bit of fun, come and duet with me and tell us why you think you're never gonna give something up next year, and the best ones are in a competition where they can win $1000 as well.

"I think the TikTok thing, I just think it's about fun and it's about people having a bit of fun, I really agree with the fact of giving things up all the time at new year is such a negative spin on it. Why don't we just say, I'm not giving these up but they're still OK to have a little bit of fun and pleasure every now and again, so that's kind of the deal I think."

When asked what he's never going to give up, Astley admitted it's dessert.

Singer Rick Astley.
Screengrab from Rick Astley's 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up," and a recent image of the singer. The star chatted about his viral Rickrolling sensation. Peter Neill - 50/50 Media House

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