Like most good things that happen in life, I re-happened upon Rick Astley’s song “Never Gonna Give You Up,” by accident—and it wasn’t by being Rickrolled, the prank-turned-phenomenon of sending somebody a video link that claims to be one thing—no Amerie...or Ameriie?—but is really a link to the video for Rick Astley’s hit song. That prank (turned phenomenon) has absurdly pushed the views on that video to over 1 billion views; yes, billions with a “b.”
No, I got there via a never-ending quest I’m on: I’m trying to find the entry song that unlocks the best Spotify radio playlist ever. I literally spend hours punching in songs just to see where the “Go to radio” playlist takes me. One day recently—don’t judge me, this is an exercise after all—I started with Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off,” which oddly (to me anyway) led me to Go West’s “The King of Wishful Thinking”—this was my 11-year-old self’s jam in 1990—which led me to a list that included “Never Gonna Give You Up.” And because I like good things, I, after what has been decades of listening to this song in earnest, let the song play only to be baffled by a few things that required some Googles.
For starters, I must have forgotten what Rick Astley sounded like because I didn’t remember just how...Black he sounded. If you had told me Rick Astley was a Black dude and played this song I’d believe you. Bobby Caldwell understands this. Further, I looked him up only to discover he was 21-years-old when this song dropped. I LITERALLY couldn’t believe a 21-year-old white kid from northern England sang this song. In 1987. I was befuddled. So I did what anybody would do at that point—I went straight to the video and my life has been better ever since.
ZOMG! Have you watched this video lately? Please do. Here you go. Have a go; let’s get those views to the 2 billion mark.
*waiting for you to watch the video*
This is the song I’m listening to while I wait:
You back? Awesome.
Holy shitcakes, Batman, is that Rick Astley video amazing! I don’t understand why I barely remember such awesomeness.
For starters, NOBODY IN THIS VIDEO CAN DANCE. There are five people in this video. One main blonde chick who absolutely cannot dance. Then Rick is flanked by two blonde women (a duo that I believe includes the aforementioned non-dancing blonde) who are...I don’t know what their goal is. Then there’s a blonde white DUDE who shows up 2 minutes into the video and fam, I don’t know what the fuck he’s doing. But most importantly is a random Black dude who looks like he was given a story-line: he starts out tending the bar in the place Rick is singing, listens and is feeling the song and levels ALL THE WAY UP. He goes from bemused curiosity to Spider-man. He’s an acrobat. He’s excited. He’s every man, it’s all in he.
The Black dude literally does flips. He hops off a fence. He hits this amazing stop-on-a-dime motion that I’ve been trying to land for the past two weeks. It’s as if he’s in an entirely different video. Everybody else was given the direction to “dance” and he was told to “dance, but with flair” and he responded with the 1987 version of “say less.” He’s great. In a terrible way because he’s not really dancing so much as he’s being a gymnast who may or may not move to the music he hears.
Again, nobody can dance.
Rick, especially, cannot dance, which is surprising since I’m pretty sure a Black man lives inside his soul. He has a mean two-step that he chose to do in each video setting. Rick has one speed. What he does give you is variations on his hand motions while doing that mean two-step. Rick has three different sets in this video: one is on a stage at a closed club wearing his best yacht-rock-is-my-shit outfit, one could be outside of a prison—which might explain the denim, Canadian tuxedo (denim shirt and denim jeans together) look he has going— and the last is wearing all an all black outfit while wearing a khaki trench coat next to some brick thing by some water. He hits the same dance in each place. Now, I think he gave the most energy while he was outside of the prison. If I was let out of jail to film a music video I’d be happy too.
Rick didn’t go to jail (as far as I know), for the record.
I wonder if the label wasn’t sure how the song/video would do so they didn’t invest any real budget into it. I mean, at this point in 1987, we’re in the thick of spending dough on videos. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” came out in 1984. Madonna had some sizably budgeted videos pre-1987. Rick though, they just threw my man in some places where nobody else was for the day and told him to bring his own clothes. They told him to dance in place and asked folks who happened to be walking if they wanted to be in a video, all they had to do was dance. Or at least that’s how it seemed.
And you know what, the video is awesome. The song is a jam. I mean it still goes 34 years later. And now this video has managed to ascend to the level of unexplainably joyous. There is nothing remarkable about this video but yet and still, I love it. I love the randomness and the frugality of it and how it has endured for decades because one day in 2007 somebody decided to fuck with their friend by sending them a Rick Astley video.
We are all better because of this song and video. Rick told us he was never gonna give you up and he hasn’t.
Now excuse me, I’m off to buy me a full denim outfit.