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A 2008 still photo of the YouTube video of "Never Gonna Give You Up", the song played when viewers are rickrolled.

Rickrolling is an Internet meme[1] 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.[1] The meme helped to revive Astley's career.[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 is said to have begun as a variant of an earlier prank from the imageboard 4chan known as duckrolling,[5] 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".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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.[5]

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]

The original video on YouTube used for rickrolling was removed for terms of use violations in February 2010[12] but was reposted within a day.[13] It was taken down again on 18 July 2014.[14]


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.[15][16] 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".[17] 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".[17]

2008 EWU basketball games

Four women's basketball games at Eastern Washington University were Rickrolled in March 2008,[18][19] 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.[18][20] 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.[18][20][21][22][23][24]

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.[25]

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.[26]

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).[27]

2008 New York Mets season

On 4 April 2008, many web communities, starting with Fark.com,[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

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".[31]

Barack Roll

Hugh Atkin, an Australian lawyer and notable producer of Internet viral videos,[32] 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.[33] This version won the Favorite User Generated Video award at the 35th People's Choice Awards.

It was highlighted on blogs for the New York Times,[34] The Politico,[35] Comedy Central,[36] Andrew Sullivan[37] and Sports Illustrated.[38] Writing for Time magazine's 2009 Time 100 issue, Astley himself mentioned the video in his writeup for 4chan founder moot.[39]

2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Astley rickrolling the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 2008.

On 27 November 2008, Astley participated in a live rickroll during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends characters were singing "Best Friend", the theme from the 1970s TV series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Midway through the song, Astley emerged from the float and began to lip sync his signature hit for the crowd. At the end of Astley's performance, Cheese (a character from Foster's) shouted out "I like Rickrolling!"[40]

2009 video by Nancy Pelosi

On 13 January 2009, in honour of the new YouTube hub for Congress, US Speaker of the House Nancy 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.[41]

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.[42]


  • A rickroll flash mob took place on 11 April 2008, in London's Liverpool Street train station with an estimated 300–400 people in attendance.[43][44] When the flash mob finished the countdown, they sang the song from beginning to end.
  • In April 2008, security expert Dan Kaminsky demonstrated a serious security vulnerability by setting up rickrolls on Facebook and PayPal.[45]
  • On 7 June 2008, a number of political blogs, including Wonkette,[46] Andrew Sullivan,[47] and Balloon Juice,[48] 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".[49]
  • 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.[50][51][52]
  • Microsoft dealt with people abusing the free Wi-Fi at its 2009 Brisbane TechEd conference with BitTorrenting[53] by redirecting local DNS results for the top BitTorrent trackers to a local web server containing some Rickroll scripts.[54][55]
  • In October/November 2009, a worm designed to infect jailbroken iPhones changed the wallpaper of infected phones to a picture of Rick Astley overlaid with the text "ikee is never going to give you up".[56]
  • 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.[57]
  • 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.[58]
  • On 11 January 2012, the Occupy Pittsburgh movement said they will play "Never Gonna Give You Up" if confronted by authorities.[59]
  • 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.[60] 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.[61]

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."[62] 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.[63] 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.[64] 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.[65]

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, 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.[66]

See also


  1. ^ a b Moore, Matthew (28 November 2008). "Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade: Rick Astley performs his own Rickroll". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 December 2008. 
  2. ^ "Rickrolled: Rick Astley tweeted by White House to lighten US debt debate". The Telegraph (London). 28 July 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  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. ^ a b c "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. ^ Silverman, Dwight. "Rickroll'd no more: Internet meme takedown!" Houston Chronicle. 24 February 2010. Retrieved on 24 February 2010.
  13. ^ McCarthy, Caroline (24 February 2010). "YouTube gives up on original 'Rickroll'". CNET. Retrieved 24 February 2010. 
  14. ^ Schneider, Marc (18 July 2014). "YouTube Blocks Original RickRoll Video". Billboard. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  15. ^ Saunders, Terri (11 February 2008). "A real song and dance at church: Entertaining protest fails to amuse Ottawa Scientologists". Ottawa Sun (Sun Media). 
  16. ^ Kendrick, Mike (13 March 2008). "Cultura Obscura: Rickrolling". The Gateway. University of Alberta. Retrieved 20 March 2008. 
  17. ^ a b Michaels, Sean (19 March 2008). "Taking the Rick: Twenty years after "Never Gonna Give You Up", Rick Astley became an Internet phenomenon – and an unlikely weapon against Scientology". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 20 March 2008. 
  18. ^ a b c Nussenbaum, Evelyn (24 March 2008). "The '80s Video That Pops Up, Online and Off". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  19. ^ Rose, Adam (19 March 2008). "College Basketball Game Rick Roll'd". LAist. Gothamist LLC. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
  20. ^ a b Staff (27 March 2008). "EWU student pranks the New York Times". KHQ Right Now. WorldNow and KHQ. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
  21. ^ "New York Times owns up to EWU student prank". KHQ Right Now. WorldNow and KHQ. 27 March 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
  22. ^ Leahy, Brian (28 March 2008). "New York Times Gets Rick Roll'd". G4TV. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
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  24. ^ Wortham, Jenna (26 March 2008). "New York Times Gets Pwnd by Fake 'Rickroll' Video". Wired. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
  25. ^ Arrington, Michael (31 March 2008). "YouTube RickRolls Users". TechCrunch. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
  26. ^ Feldblum, Eli (1 April 2008). "Risk Astley and More April Fools Day Goodness". Search Engine Watch. Incisive Interactive Marketing LLC. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
  27. ^ "Hilarious Muppets Blooper reel". Fark. 1 April 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  28. ^ Cerrone, Matthew (4 April 2008). "Note: Mets about to be Rickrolled". MetsBlog. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  29. ^ Cerrone, Matthew (7 April 2008). "News: Rick Astely Wins, For One Day". MetsBlog. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  30. ^ Rubin, Adam (8 April 2008). "Runoff to determine Mets' new 8th inning song". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  31. ^ DiComo, Anthony (11 April 2008). "Controversy surrounds song choice: Initial online voting was rigged by fans to pick Rick Astley tune". MLB.com. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  32. ^ ABC (2008). Unleashed. Retrieved 2 March 2008.
  33. ^ Spiegelman, Ian (7 September 2008). "Barack Roll Becomes McCain's Worst Nightmare". Gawker Media. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  34. ^ New York Times (2008). Laugh Lines – You’ve Been Barack-Rolled. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
  35. ^ Politico.com (2008). Sunday reading: Barackroll. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
  36. ^ Comedy Central (2008). BREAKING NEWS: The Footage Barack Obama Doesn't Want You to See – Do the Letters "RR" Mean Anything to You?. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  37. ^ TheAtlantic.com (2008). The Daily Dish – Barack Roll. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  38. ^ SI.com (2008). Hot Clicks: Braun shoots commercial with Marisa Miller. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  39. ^ Astley, Rick (30 April 2009). "The 2009 Time 100: Builders and Titans: moot". Time.com (Time magazine). Retrieved 3 July 2009. 
  40. ^ North, Jesse (27 November 2008). "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Best and worst moments". Retrieved 27 November 2008. 
  41. ^ Arrington, Michael (14 January 2009). "Our Tax Dollars at Work: Nancy Pelosi RickRolls YouTube Viewers". Retrieved 14 January 2009. 
  42. ^ "How one Oregon lawmaker convinced his colleagues to 'Rick Roll' the state legislature". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  43. ^ "Astley fans' rush hour 'flashmob'". BBC News. 11 April 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  44. ^ Sanchez, Julian (14 April 2008). "The Dance, Dance Revolution will be televised after all". Ars Technica. Ars Technica, LLC. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  45. ^ Singel, Ryan (19 April 2008). "ISPs' Error Page Ads Let Hackers Hijack Entire Web, Researcher Discloses". Wired. Retrieved 19 May 2008. 
  46. ^ Layne, Ken (8 May 2008). "Michelle Obama Shock Tape: 'God Damn You American Whitey'". Wonkette. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  47. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (8 May 2008). "The Whitey Tape". Andrew Sullivan. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  48. ^ Cole, John (8 May 2008). "The Whitey Tape". Balloon Juice. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  49. ^ "MIT Tech". 11 September 2009. 
  50. ^ "EA Rickrolls Yahtzee". Escapist Magazine. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  51. ^ "DANTE'S INFERNO RICKROLLS CHUD.COM!". chud.com. 26 October 2009. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  52. ^ Chester, Nick (27 October 2009). "What's in the Dante's Inferno box?". Destructoid. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  53. ^ BitTorrent, traffic shaping and trusting users (David Connors, TechEd Backstage, 17 February 2010)
  54. ^ Never gonna give you up! (David Connors, TechEd Backstage, 18 February 2010)
  55. ^ Microsoft RickRolls WiFi Network Leechers (Samzenpus, Slashdot, 18 February 2010)
  56. ^ Cluley, Graham (8 November 2009). "First iPhone worm discovered – ikee changes wallpaper to Rick Astley photo". Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  57. ^ "Google Labs Books NGram Viewer". Google Labs. 5 February 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  58. ^ Arthur, Charles (27 July 2011). "White House rickrolls Twitter user who complains of 'dull' feed". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  59. ^ Balingit,Moriah (11 January 2012). "Occupy Pittsburgh to cops: prepare to be rickrolled". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  60. ^ "A new Toronto radio station is Rickrolling for a week". canada.com, 25 July 2013.
  61. ^ Index.hu Gallery (28 October 2014) "Hatalmas tömeg tüntetett a netadó ellen". Index.hu.
  62. ^ 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. 
  63. ^ "Astley shortlisted for MTV award". BBC News. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  64. ^ "WTF MTV?". Bestactever.com. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  65. ^ "Rick Brands MTV win 'Ridiculous'". BBC News. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  66. ^ "German judge chides Google over YouTube freeloading". The Register. 31 August 2010. 

Further reading