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]


Astley recorded "Never Gonna Give You Up" on his 1987 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 UK Singles Chart. As a means of promoting the song, it was also made into Astley's first music video, which features him performing the song while dancing.[4]

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 "moot", started replacing occurrences of the word "egg" on the site with the word "duck". When the word "eggroll" was turned into "duckroll", other users started changing innocent looking links going somewhere (such as to a specific picture or news item) to redirect readers to a thread or site containing an edited picture of a duck with wheels. The user at that point is 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, where a link to the Rick Astley video was claimed to be a mirror of the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV (which was unavailable due to heavy traffic). 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 advance of the 2018 premier of Season 2 of Westworld, the show's creators released a video that purported to be a spoiler guide for the entire 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 77 million views as of December 2017.[13] The RickAstleyVEVO's channel on YouTube uploaded another version[17] on 24 October 2009 which has had over 420 million views as of April 2018.

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."[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

In 2009, Astley wrote about 4chan founder moot for Time magazine's annual Time 100 issue, and thanked moot for the rickrolling phenomenon.[22]

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.[23]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Jamie Dubs (2015). "Rickroll". Triple Zed. Cheezburger, Inc. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  2. Moore, Matthew (28 November 2008). "Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade: Rick Astley performs his own Rickroll". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  3. Henderson, Alex. "Whenever You Need Somebody review". Allmusic. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  4. Hasty, Katie (5 April 2008). "'80s singer Rick Astley latest Web phenomenon". Reuters. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
  5. 1 2 "The Biggest Little Internet Hoax on Wheels Hits Mainstream". Fox News Channel. Fox News Channel. 22 April 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  6. "Rick Roll related Google Trends". Google Trends. Google. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
  7. Drapkin, Jennifer; O'Donnell, Kevin; Henderson, Ky (30 December 2011). "The 25 Most Powerful Songs of the Past 25 Years". Mental Floss. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  8. Williams, Andy (16 June 2007). "You've been tRicked". Wigan Today. Johnston Press Digital Publishing. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  9. "You Wouldn't Get This From Any Other Pollster". SurveyUSA. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  10. Leckart, Steven (September 2009). "The Official Prankonomy: From rickrolls to malware, a spectrum of stunts". Wired. 17 (9). pp. 91–93. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  11. Christopher, Hooton (17 January 2014). "Teacher Rickrolled by inspired quantum physics essay". The Independent. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  12. Whitbrook, James (10 April 2018). "The Stars of Westworld Make 25-Minute Long 'Spoiler' Video Just to Troll Fans". io9. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  13. 1 2 cotter548 (15 May 2007). RickRoll'D. YouTube. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  14. Silverman, Dwight. "Rickroll'd no more: Internet meme takedown!" Houston Chronicle. 24 February 2010. Retrieved on 24 February 2010.
  15. McCarthy, Caroline (24 February 2010). "YouTube gives up on original 'Rickroll'". CNET. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  16. Schneider, Marc (18 July 2014). "YouTube Blocks Original RickRoll Video". Billboard. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  17. RickAstleyVEVO (24 October 2009). Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up. YouTube. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  18. Sarno, David (25 March 2008). "Web Scout exclusive! Rick Astley, king of the 'Rickroll,' talks about his song's second coming". Web Scout. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  19. "Astley shortlisted for MTV award". BBC News. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  20. "WTF MTV?". Bestactever.com. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  21. "Rick Brands MTV win 'Ridiculous'". BBC News. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  22. "The 2009 TIME 100: moot". 30 April 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  23. "German judge chides Google over YouTube freeloading". The Register. 31 August 2010.

Further reading

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