Rick Astley’s great struggle in his life has not been that of any other artist -which goes through achieving success, maintaining it, and developing a career, which in turn guarantees him a comfortable life-, but something much more thorny: demonstrating to everyone that was not a joke. At the end of the 80s, a common expression in England was “Astley is on the noose” -whose literal translation would be something like “Astley is with the rope around his neck”, and which would really mean that Astley is finished, that it was useless-, and with which the most recurrent prejudice of his entire career was affected: Rick Astley was the worst garbage in music, the most ridiculous singer in history, he should not be taken seriously.
What’s more: an indie band from the late 80s, The Wonder Stuff -poetic justice: today completely forgotten, while we are writing about Rick Astley here-, titled one of their songs with that phrase, which is one of their verses said ” wash your mouth with soap before singing. ” Rick Astley had released his first album in 1987, Whenever you need somebody, which included radio hits like Never gonna give you up, Together forever or Whenever you need somebody, and despite the success they achieved, they never translated into respect. Especially when the video clips appeared when it played on the radio, many people thought it was black.
With his deep baritone voice, red hair, and the frail boy looks, Astley was derided as the epitome of ready-made, throwaway pop. There was only one worse thing in the world, Milli Vanilli. Certainly, Astley drags, still at 55 years old who has turned this weekend, the original sin of having been one of the artists exploited by the infamous Stock, Aitken & Waterman production team on the PWL label, which was dedicated to manufacturing. Catchy and cheap pop – sometimes recycling old hits from the 60s, like The loco-motion – for teenage singers like Jason Donovan, or Kylie Minogue, or big-breasted, like Samantha Fox.
Minogue managed to overcome the stigma and build a new more respectable career after a few years, but for Astley, it was an impossible mission: for many people he is still that freckled boy who swayed his hips with a little style, and who participated in the most false of pop, the so-called ‘blue-eyed soul’, or apparently soul music sung by blue-eyed, white, soulless men. It is true that at the time Rick Astley enjoyed success and received awards – a BRIT Award for the best British single in 1988 for Never give you up-, but before long there were no more honors, but ridicules, and in 1993 he retired prematurely, not before having sold 40 million records. He had been a father and decided that family was more important, and he was silent for a decade and a half.
This situation of estrangement from the music circuit continued until an unforeseen event arrived in 2007, one of those black swans that Nassim Taleb talks about, which gave him the opportunity to return at the beginning of the 21st century to take advantage of the situation for his benefit and relaunch your career. This event is what was known for a time as rickrolling, one of the first trolling formats spread over the internet that consisted in suggesting to the readers of a blog or a web page to follow a link to obtain attractive information on any subject to end up falling into the video of Never gonna give you up on YouTube.
In fact, Astley is said to be a smiling, happy man who lives comfortably. He is married to film producer Lene Bausager, whom he met in 1988 at the height of his fame – his lifelong girlfriend, in fact; they were officially married in 2003-, and with whom they have a daughter, Emilie, born in 1992. There is a theory that Lene is the red-haired bikini girl that appears in the video for Whenever you need somebody, although no one has confirmed it officially.
Astley’s day-to-day life, moreover, is serene and without ups and downs: he is publishing his albums -the latest, from 2018 and 2019, are titled Beautiful life and The best of me; He records them in his home studio in Richmond, outside London – and does so with not so many tongue-in-cheek fans in mind, but rather loyal fans who like his accessible pop-soul. And when he can, he goes on tour. Sometimes those tours have been framed in nostalgic events or that exploit that aspect of Astley that relates him to the meme culture, but it is not the only thing that keeps him going. Perhaps it is that, after all, although his records from the 80s were not very good and appeared in a particularly grotesque time for commercial pop, it should be recognized that Never Gonna Give You Up a good song and that Astley was not as horrible as they painted it to us.
Video has 859 million views in 12 years on its official channel they are more, for example, than the other great eighties hit reviled in its day and today embraced by generation Z as an anthem, Toto’s Africa, so he will surely perceive a death by publicity and be laughing at all of us while uncorking champagne and spitting the shells of the lobster with the same force with which Theodore throws the olive bone. It is, in short, the demonstration that, with patience and a gift of opportunity, revenge can be served on a cold plate while one takes it hot.