Rick Astley has had an unlikely second act.
The ‘80s singer found fame again in the new millennium after the internet craze known as "Rickrolling" made him a viral star. The online phenomenon is known as a bait-and-switch prank in which a promised link on a website turns out to be the music video for his 1987 song "Never Gonna Give You Up." At first, the 55-year-old was annoyed by it. But then his daughter helped him realize it was cool. And now, he’s never gonna stop appreciating the beloved track.
In time for 2022, Astley teamed up with Frito-Lay for the brand’s "New Year New You" campaign that’s celebrating the single. The festivities, which kicked off on digital media platforms on Christmas, also include an opportunity for 18 people to win $1,000 each. Plus, there’s also a "RickTok" challenge on TikTok where fans can duet with Astley himself.
Astley spoke to Fox News about the first time he learned about "Rickrolling," how he feels about "Never Gonna Give You Up" today, as well as the most unique encounter he’s ever had with a fan.
Fox News: You’re helping to kick off a TikTok challenge this year. What’s it been like connecting with younger listeners there?
Rick Astley: It’s kind of crazy for somebody my age. When I released that song, "Never Gonna Give You Up" in ’87, the internet was just some crazy, futuristic dream. So it’s kind of weird that we’ve come all this way and now all of a sudden, you can release something out to millions of people using just your phone and everyone can have fun with it and join in. It’s one of those situations where, as you get older, you realize you have to go with the flow a little bit more. When I first started, record labels and big corporations had much more control over everything. Whereas today, it’s much more in the hands of the public, which is probably terrifying for certain people *laughs*.
But it has been a lot of fun. And it’s certainly sparked a lot of great ideas. Especially with something like TikTok, stuff can blow up that nobody can predict, which is probably terrifying for record labels and big companies. I think that’s the joy of it… I’m careful sometimes not to be sort of trying too hard to be down with the kids. But at the same time, if you don’t have one eye open to what the rest of the world is doing, you suddenly can’t see anymore. So I think that’s also important. But it has been really fun. It makes me giggle.
Fox News: What was your initial reaction when you were "Rickrolled" for the very first time?
Astley: A friend of mine "Rickrolled" me before I even knew what it was. He had to do it a couple of times because I didn’t know what he was doing. I’m just like, "Why is he sending me this?" And my video just suddenly shows up. So I kept asking myself, "What is he doing?" I remember I was on holiday [with my family] in Italy at the time. I was totally chilled out and I just kept saying to myself, "I don’t need this in my life right now." I know the video, I’ve seen it a few times. So in the end, we had an actual telephone conversation. We went old school and he explained it to me. He lives in California and works in music as well. And he works with a lot of guys who are younger than him. So obviously, they’re right on the tip of everything all the time.
So those guys were very into "Rickrolling." But I just thought it was really weird. You know, here’s a friend of mine who lives on a different continent and is sending me a video that then clicks into my song. It was just really weird and it was something difficult for me to get my head around at first. Let’s face it, that video is from a long time ago. I look like I’m 11 years old and wearing my dad’s overcoat. I just didn’t get it at first.
Fox News: Have you "Rickrolled" anyone since then?
Astley: I’ve professionally "Rickrolled" people many times *laughs*. I got to "Rickroll" the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was amazing. And it has been in so many movies and TV shows at this point. People all around the world know it. It’s not just an American thing anymore, even though it’s very American-based.
But I remember I was asked if I wanted to "Rickroll" a kids' TV show that had a float going around in the parade. At first, I thought, "I don’t know if I really want to be doing this. Should I be doing this?" I called a few friends in America and without exception, every single one of them said, "If you don’t do this, then you’re an idiot." So I said "fine." We then came to New York and – this was a long time ago… But it was such a surreal moment. Millions of people are waving at you. It was pretty nuts. So I guess that’s probably the biggest one I’ve done.
Fox News: Why do you think the song "Never Gonna Give You Up" continues to resonate with listeners decades later?
Astley: I wish I knew, because I could then be a consultant on those matters. I think if there was a magic formula to it, the artists, writers and producers would do it again and again.
But I think it's got a really good melody. The intro is instantly recognizable because it’s got that ‘80s drum thing in the beginning. The strings and arrangements are a bit like old-school soul in the way it works together. And I just think it ticks a lot of boxes in terms of being a memorable song. And it’s really, really difficult to forget. And to be honest, I’m probably the worst person to ask that question because that song is now part of my DNA. I’ve sung it so many times. I still sing it now obviously, or else I’d get thrown out of the building at the end of a concert if I didn’t sing it *laughs*.
It gave me the life I’ve got. It gave me everything. I still travel the world because of it. I’m coming to America next year for gigs and stuff because of it. I can’t complain. Because at one point, I quit singing for quite a long time. I just wanted a totally private life. And then I started again about 15 years ago. And people still love the song. The first time I ever sang that song was in Tokyo. People there still love it. It brings back wonderful memories. Very often my wife and I will enjoy a nice glass of wine at the end of the evening somewhere beautiful and maybe even strange in the world. And we say thank heavens for that song and what came after it because it was game-changing. It totally changed our lives. And it continues to do so.
Fox News: What’s the funniest or most unique encounter you’ve ever had with a fan?
Astley: Oh man, I don’t know what I can even tell you *laughs*. Certain people actually have full tattoos of my face and everything on their bodies. That always stops me in my tracks and makes me gulp. I almost want to apologize *laughs*. It always makes me feel full of emotion.
I also remember this woman said she was gonna do it after I signed a part of her anatomy. The next time I saw her, she had a tattoo. It was the signature and the face. I was like, "Is that for real? Is that serious?" That’s forever, you know. It makes me speechless. It’s not like, "Hey, I named my son after you" or "This was our wedding song." It’s "check out this epic tattoo." That’s dedication.
Fox News: It sounds like people are never gonna give you up.
Astley: *Laughs* That’s for sure.
Fox News: This partnership with Frito-Lay is about never giving up on the things that you love. What’s one thing you’re never gonna give up in 2022 and why?
Astley: I’ve got an answer already made for that, and it’s dessert. We have one child, she doesn’t live with us. She’s 29 years old and lives in Denmark, which is where my wife is from. Danish people have a sweet tooth for sure, but I think in general they’re very much more into salty things, like salty licorice. I’ve now acquired a taste for it, but I’m a bit more old school.
I like chocolate cake. Now I’m not saying every day of the week, but it’s quite nice to enjoy. If we’re going somewhere nice out to eat, it’s what I’m looking for. My eye immediately goes to the bottom of the menu all the time looking for the desserts. My wife has a thing about being healthier and believe me, I’m making efforts to be healthier. I’m 55, I’ve got to. But if you don’t have a treat to look forward to, then life is gonna get extremely boring. So everything in moderation. So for me, it’s dessert. I really don’t understand how people skip dessert altogether when they go out. That’s just not for me.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.