Opening Riff

It’s been rolling for weeks now. You click on an interesting link–Keira Knightley upskirt photo, per chance–and you find yourself instead watching the video for Rick Astley’s 1987 transatlantic No. 1 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.” You’ve just been Rickrolled–as have an estimated 13 million others.

The gag–started on, the website that gave us lolcats and made Chocolate Rain a Web smash–is an evolution of the duckroll, where Internet users seeking, say, news of Grand Theft Auto would instead find themselves staring at a picture of a duck on wheels while inane music played in the background.

Rickrolling is mutating rapidly. The Anonymous group, whose members protest outside Scientology buildings wearing V for Vendetta masks, have on several occasions danced to “Never Gonna Give You Up” during their gatherings. And if you clicked on any of YouTube’s featured videos on April 1, you got Rickrolled.

The Rickroll has led to the Tayroll (where the singer of “Chocolate Rain” pays tribute to Rick), the Reichroll (Hitler and the Nazis dance to Rick), the awesome Rickroll metal remix and many others.

Meanwhile the real genius of Rickrolling has gone totally unexamined. Rick Astley is the definitive wimpy manufactured pop star. Discovered at a hairdresser’s Christmas party in England, his biggest hit was a celebration of monogamy. He is, in short, the anodyne Christ to Marilyn Manson’s evil Antichrist. But Rickrolling has rendered Rick the punkest punk on the punking planet.

Astley wanders blindly in the footsteps of Luther Blissett–a very ordinary British soccer player whose identity was effectively stolen in the 1990s by hordes of avant-garde artists and writers who published thousands of books, tracts and manifestos under the bemused footballer’s name.

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