A still photo of the YouTube video of "Never Gonna Give You Up", the song played when viewers are rickrolled.
Rickrolling is an Internet meme involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a bait and switch; a person provides a hyperlink which is seemingly relevant to the topic at hand, but actually leads to Astley's video. The link can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true destination of the link without clicking. People led to the music video are said to have been rickrolled. Rickrolling has extended beyond web links to playing the video or song disruptively in other situations, including public places, such as a live appearance of Astley himself in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The meme helped to revive Astley's career.
Rickrolling is said to have begun as a variant of an earlier prank from the imageboard4chan known as duckrolling, in which a link to somewhere (such as a specific picture or news item) would instead lead 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".
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.
By May 2008, the practice had spread beyond 4chan and became an Internet phenomenon, eventually attracting coverage in the mainstream media. An April 2008 poll by SurveyUSA estimated that at least 18 million American adults had been rickrolled. 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. The term has been extended to simple hidden use of the song's lyrics.
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2008 Church of Scientology protests
In connection with the online meme, "Never Gonna Give You Up" was played and performed at most of the Project Chanology February 2008 protests against the Church of Scientology. On 10 February 2008, protests in New York City, Washington, D.C., London, St. Louis, Detroit, and Seattle, protesters played the song through boomboxes and shouted the phrase "Never gonna let you down!", in what The Guardian called "a live rick-rolling of the Church of Scientology". In response to a website created by Scientologists showing an anti-Anonymous video, Project Chanology participants created a website with a similar domain name with a video displaying the music video to "Never Gonna Give You Up".
2008 EWU basketball games
Four women's basketball games at Eastern Washington University were Rickrolled in March 2008, in the first photo, Davin Perry, dressed as the singer Rick Astley, performed before a basketball game. The games were not actually interrupted.
Four women's basketball games at Eastern Washington University (EWU) were rickrolled during March 2008. Before the start of the games, "Never Gonna Give You Up" was played while a Rick Astley impersonator danced and lip-synched to the music. A video containing footage of the pre-game rickrollings, misleadingly combined with real game break footage, was later released on YouTube. It also showed a fan with a "Scientology Kills" sign and the EWU mascot, Swoop, holding a "Xenu.net" sign, both references to the Anonymous Scientology protests.
The New York Times originally reported that a single game had actually been interrupted by the rickrolling. On 27 March 2008 it issued a correction clarifying the situation, and saying that the interruption never took place, but was rather a hoax by Pawl Fisher, a student; Davin Perry, who shoots game videos for the university; and Dave Cook, the university's sports information director.
April Fools' Day, 2008
On April Fools' Day 2008 and the following weeks, numerous seemingly uncoordinated instances of rickrolling appeared on the Internet and news media. All of the featured videos on YouTube's front page hyperlinked to the rickroll. The prank began with international[YouTube portals before appearing on the main site.
Social blog website LiveJournal announced on the same day that they would be adding a new member to their Advisory Board, linking members to the journal "rickastley", which contains a rickroll.
The website Fark featured a link to a video claiming to be a blooper reel for the Muppets but instead linked to a video of Beaker performing Rick Astley's song (to a video of him originally performing "Feelings" on The Muppet Show).
2008 New York Mets season
On 4 April 2008, many web communities, starting with Fark.com, urged their readers to vote "Never Gonna Give You Up" for the 8th inning sing-along at Shea Stadium for the New York Mets season. The Mets posted a web poll to select a song, and left a blank field for write-ins. The Mets organisation announced on 7 April 2008 that "Never Gonna Give You Up" was the winner with more than five million votes. The Mets decided not to commit to using Astley's song and subsequently announced a run-off among six songs that would be played at Shea Stadium for the next six games, starting with "Never Gonna Give You Up" on 8 April 2008.
MLB.com later reported on the game, claiming "Never Gonna Give You Up" was played as a "result of fans rigging the vote in favor of Astley, all part of a universal Internet phenomenon known as Rick Rolling". The song was played during the home opener and was greeted with "a shower of boos".
Hugh Atkin, an Australian lawyer and notable producer of Internet viral videos, created a popular YouTube parody video of the rickrolling meme involving US President Barack Obama, the then 2008 presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, and a Senator from Illinois, entitled "Barack Roll" that has been watched about 6 million times since its release. The video consists of clips of Obama speaking the words of Astley's song and scenes of his appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. A follow-up video shows Senator John McCain being "Barack Rolled" at the Republican National Convention, though it never happened; the "Barack Roll" image was displayed on the giant blue sky background that was behind John McCain during parts of his speech, and the video was pieced together from footage of the event. The video ends with what looks like the delegation cheering while chanting Obama's name. This version won the Favorite User Generated Video award at the 35th People's Choice Awards.
On 13 January 2009, in honour of the new YouTube hub for Congress, US Speaker of the HouseNancy Pelosi uploaded a video called "Speaker Pelosi Presents Capitol Cat Cam" to her official YouTube channel. She described it as "a behind the scenes view of the Speaker's Office in the U.S. Capitol". The video depicts cats roaming around the office. A rickroll occurs approximately halfway through the video.
2010–11 rickroll of Oregon House of Representatives
In February 2010, a bipartisan group of Oregon Representatives conspired to do a phantom rickroll during House sessions. Each of the conspirators was given a portion of the lyrics of Never Gonna Give You Up to work unobtrusively into their statements during legislative discussion. This scheme was finally revealed on 1 April 2011, when a video, edited by Representative Jefferson Smith and his co-conspirators, was released of the various representatives making their statements, put in proper lyrical order.
In April 2008, security expert Dan Kaminsky demonstrated a serious security vulnerability by setting up rickrolls on Facebook and PayPal.
On 7 June 2008, a number of political blogs, including Wonkette,Andrew Sullivan, and Balloon Juice, posted an article claiming to show Michelle Obama going on a rant full of racist references to "Whitey", but the video was actually a rickroll.
The MIT dome was hacked on 9 September 2009, to show a giant set of the first notes of "Never Gonna Give You Up".
As part of promotion for their title Dante's Inferno, Electronic Arts sent wooden boxes to several video game websites, including The Escapist, Destructoid and Chud.com. Each box contained a hammer and a pair of goggles, and when opened, the box would play the Rick Astley song on a continuous loop. The only way to stop it was to destroy it. After doing so, the recipient would then find a scroll claiming that he or she was damned to Hell for committing the sin of Wrath.
In October/November 2009, a worm designed to infect jailbrokeniPhones changed the wallpaper of infected phones to a picture of Rick Astley overlaid with the text "ikee is never going to give you up".
Google.com's Google Labs Book NGram Viewer, a phrase-trending graph of searched terms, displays the YouTube video if the term "Never Gonna Give You Up" is searched for.
On 27 July 2011 officials managing the White House Twitter feed responded to a message that the feed was dull, writing "Sorry to hear that. Fiscal policy is important, but can be dry sometimes. Here's something more fun," followed by a link to Never Gonna Give You Up.
On 11 January 2012, the Occupy Pittsburgh movement said they will play "Never Gonna Give You Up" if confronted by authorities.
CIND-FM, a new radio station in Toronto started stunting on 25 July with a repeating loop of "Never Gonna Give You Up" on both the FM frequency and their existing online stream. Six days later, they went into a "soft launch" of their alt-rock format.*
On 29 October 2014, during the protest against the internet tax in Budapest, a protester held a banner containing just a binary code. It was the URL of the Rick Astley music video on YouTube.
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." 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, Rick 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 continued after the announcement, as well as efforts to encourage MTV to personally invite Astley to the awards ceremony. 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.
In 2009, Astley wrote about 4chan founder moot for Time magazine's annual Time 100 issue, where he thanked moot for the rickrolling phenomenon.
According to The Register, however, Astley has only directly received $12 in performance royalties from YouTube. Although by 2010 the song had been played 39 million times, Astley did not compose the song and receives only a performer's share of the sound recording copyright.