Thursday, August 14, 2008


Thanks to someone vastly more attuned than I to the nuances of Internet culture, I have learned of the practice known as "Rickrolling." In the 1980s, a British singer named Rick Astley recorded what became a popular tune, one that I'd put in the disco category. Astley has a rather impressive baritone voice, which seems incongruous in relation to his physical appearance: He seems to be of relatively small physical stature, with red hair, not that red hair runs counter to baritone-status; anyway, it's one of those cases in which the person in possession of the voice is a bit of a surprise.

His big hit was "Never Gonna Give You Up," and, music-videos having been in their infancy back then, his video is nerdy and dorky, to use technical terms. Basically it's just Rick singing and doing some basic moves. Not quite explicably, he sometimes appears in a trench coat. Sometimes the alleged scene is a club--but the club is empty, and it's daytime. A female dancer or two materialize, and the bartender becomes a dancer at some point. There is not a "plot" to the video, and I say thank God to that. Who wants a plot in a music video? Indeed, who wants a music video? A few have been interesting, but basically, it's a moronic, corporate genre.

The video is so bad that it's good, and the song blends a great, trained voice with a fairly dumb disco song. All the elements are there, in other words, for camp, and I gather that things campy in this day and age can be turned into Internet pranks of the harmless variety. So people apparently trick their friends into viewing the Astley video on youtube, and allegedly hilarity ensues.

Nerdy and dorky, I am both amused by and sympathetic to Mr. Astley. Chiefly, he seems to have been working the job (my agent got me into this?) and in no way seems to take the video seriously. More nerdy than Rick, I find the lyrics interesting because they exemplify iambic tetrameter. In fact, one could substitute "Tyger, Tyger, burning bright/In the forest of the night," and have a splendidly surreal combination, a fearful symmetry, of Rick Astley and William Blake. "Tyger, tyger BURN-ing bright, in the forest OF THE NIGHT!" Blake is never gonna give up that tyger.

In the lyrics, there's also an interesting bit about the persona of the song offering "total commitment," which other fellows do not offer the beloved, it is argued. Perhaps he's threatening to have his lover committed to an insane asylum, OR he's offering to commit himself voluntarily to such a facility. "I'm never going to give you up, but at the same time, I'll be safely behind bars, getting treatment!" Of course, there's a chance that commitment refers to something else.

For a very good, frivolous time, check out the Astley video, rick-roll yourself, and have a grin or two in these dour times. Join the people who've been ricked!

A link:

And thanks to Mr. Astley and his most impressive baritone.
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