English Pop Star Rick Astley Touring in U.S. for First Time Since ’89

January 2, 2017 5:00 am
Rick Astley
(David Redfern/Redferns)
Rick Astley (Bernd Muller/Redferns)
(Bernd Muller/Redferns)


Long before Justin Bieber was even gurgling to himself in his crib to whatever was on MTV, there was another male pop sensation that laid claim to both sides of the Atlantic.

His name was Rick Astley. He was from England. And his throaty baritone can best be heard on his first solo single, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” It was recorded on New Year’s Day 1987, when Astley was just 20. The song would soon infect the ears of millions of adoring fans and end up hitting No. 1 in 25 countries, including the U.K. and the U.S.

But let’s get something out of the way up front: The song is pretty terrible. The limp electronic beat and synthesizer-produced string section that hold the song together evoke the worst of the elevator music era and the best of what they play in the seventh layer of hell (not that we’d know). Astley’s voice sounds like a cross between the “Chocolate Rain” guy and a sorrowful goat. The lyrics aren’t much better.

The point of the song? That this dude—and we’ll take a wild, flying leap of a guess that it’s someone just like Rick Astley—is worried that his girl won’t commit to him, so he writes this sappy song about how she should just trust that he’s a good guy. That he won’t ever give her up. That he won’t ever let her down. Or cheat on her or run away. Or make her cry or say goodbye. You get the point. In other words, “Trust me: I’m an awesome guy.” (Read the lyrics here.)

Which is sort of creepy when you think about it. Then again, back when Astley put the song out, social media and other background-checking materials didn’t exist. So we guess you just had to take men for their word.

But you know what? A lot of people don’t agree with the fact that it’s a cheesy, awful song. Because for one, people who are looking for a double shot of nostalgia from the 1980s need not look farther than Astley’s big hit and its equally nauseating music video. (See below.)

Also, ’80s pop has seen a major renaissance of late. Pretty much everybody who is cool in the pop and indie worlds has embraced some aspect of the beats, sounds, and aesthetic of the 1980s—from Bon Iver and LCD Soundsystem to Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Swift even called her last album 1989.

But we’re getting off topic. Fast-forward to 2007, 20 years after “Never Gonna Give You Up” ruled the charts. If you had asked the average person on the street who Rick Astley was, they would’ve probably given you a dull, unknowing, hungry look. Sort of like a zombie from The Walking Dead. That’s because the English pop star had last toured America in 1989, and had fallen off of the scene like an unwanted scab.

That is, until a 4chan user decided to launch the “Rickrolling” meme. It’s basically an internet-age game of bait-and-switch. Someone on a website says something like, “Hey, read this addition to the Magna Carta.” And when you click on the link, it sends you to Astley’s ghastly video for “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

We’re going to guess that a large part of the reason the video has been viewed 270 million times is because of the rampant Rickrolling that has occurred since ’07.

The meme even went a step further, getting its own offline version. By 2008, Astley himself had clearly heard about it and decided to Rickroll the entire Macy’s Day Parade in New York City. (See below.) We have to admit that it was a pretty hilarious publicity stunt. Who can’t get behind a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously?

Then in 2015, the Foo Fighters decided to engage in a drive-by Rickrolling. They interrupted a protest by the much-maligned Westboro Baptist Church before a gig in Kansas City. The results were also tremendously enjoyable to watch. (See below.) Maybe the song had a higher calling all along?

And then the news broke this year. Rick Astley would tour the U.S. for the first time since 1989, supporting his album, 50, that went to No. 1 in the U.K. (but failed to chart over yonder).

Beginning on January 21, 2017, Astley will kick off his big comeback tour in Las Vegas, playing the Pearl Concert Theater. From there, he’ll play 17 more dates, stopping in cities like Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City before playing his final show in Boston on February 18.

In short, Rickrolling has led to Rick (Astley) rolling right back into the hearts of Americans. Even if his music is the last thing you want to hear, we would suggest giving the now-50-year-old Astley a second chance.

Sure, his biggest song is insufferable. But does that mean you can’t find enjoyment in the scads of other songs in his catalog? Maybe.

To pick up tickets for the Rick Astley tour, go here. Last but not least, if you want to read a wonderful feature from 1987 on the song, go here.

—Will Levith for RealClearLife

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