Did Barry Manilow Rick Roll Himself?

I mean, does Barry Manilow even what a Rickroll is?

Hot on the heels of the Cartoon Network Thanksgiving Day Rickroll is one from…Barry Manilow’s new album of 80’s covers?


Does Barry Manilow even know of the Rickroll? If so, he didn’t let on in this Billboard interview:

Among the most novel efforts on “Eighties” is Rick Astley’s 1988 No. 1 “Never Gonna Give You Up.” “It has the catchiest little melody, with production from Stock, Aiken and Waterman. How do you compete with that?” asks Manilow, who called on producer Michael Lloyd (the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack) for assistance. “I think it’s going to stand out on the album.”

The article singles out “Never Gonna Give You Up” for its “novelty,” but Manilow is talking about how he’s going to make his own arrangement stand out from original. Is he playing dumb? Is he ignorantly standing by while his puppet masters at the record company exploit him to cash in on the Rickrolling Internet joke?

No one can be certain, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Manilow chose this song unironically and outside of the Rickrolling context. Rickrolling, after all, is far less well known than one might at first think. In an informal polling of several of my coworkers, all in their 20’s and 30’s, less than 1/3 knew what a Rickroll was, but most knew of “Never Gonna Give You Up” just as a fun 80’s song. In other words, they liked it unironically.

So, really, how well known is the Rickroll? For all the hype, I think it’s merely a minor Intenet meme. Disagree? Is your office more hip to Internet trends than mine? Discuss in the comments.

5 Comments on “Did Barry Manilow Rick Roll Himself?”

  1. Rob #

    No idea how ubiquitous the Rickroll is. In fact, I doubt that anybody who is “in” on the Rickroll joke would ever spend money on a Barry Manilow track. Still wrapping my head around why Barry Manilow chose this song.

    A more serious concern that I tried to raise yesterday was “has Barry Manilow killed the Rickroll?”

    [I can totally see folks saying “Oy vey, even Barry Manilow is trying to Rickroll people. The joke is definitely over. I will now misdirect people to some other kitschy phenomenon.”
    Now, I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility that this cover might catch on because of the fact that it *is* such an epic fail…]

    But given the musicological inclinations that several of you at OTI have, I was kinda hoping you guys would Overthink™ the cover itself.

    As I commented yesterday:
    [The arrangement loses a lot of the ’80s flavor – particularly the synth strings, synth brass, synth drumkit, and synth bass line – and the studio production omits the vocal reverb; what’s more, the video lacks the ’80s-era attire and lighting and most of all, the dancing. So while it works as a Barry Manilow tune, it fails at ironic ’80s nostalgia.]

    I’d be curious to hear other critical appraisals, though.

    P.S. having a little trouble with Captcha. hope this doesn’t show up repeatedly.


  2. Gab #

    I don’t know if the readers of this site are a good audience to ask about the popularity of ANY internet meme. Your target audience is probably composed vastly of people with nerdtastic tendencies (and I say this with warmth and pride, not derision or shame), the very sort of person in the subculture the memes were created by. Then if you go beyond the readers and into their “groups” or “possies” or whatever, you’re still hitting the same sort of people (I hate to make that generalization, but meh…); so they’d know about it, too. I think my three best friends all Rickrolled me separately and without knowing the others were doing it. And yeah, I don’t think any of my regular hang-out buddies would be ignorant of the Rickroll. (BTW, they are now fans of the crocodile thing from that podcast a while back, too… muaha.) But, I’m a lot nerdier than my older-by-two-years sister, so whenever I talk about internet memes with her, she almost always has no idea what I’m talking about. Happened a lot over Thanksgiving. She didn’t get why I thought the performance at the parade was so funny (she saw me burst out laughing); when I said, “I lost the game!” she looked at me like I was nuts; she asked if “Hide and Seek” is by Frou Frou or Imogen Heap on her own when I started singing, “Mmm, whatcha saaaaay…” while we were talking about some movie (sorry, don’t remember) and how over-the-top it was. All of those memes are ones I joke about with my friends regularly, but there isn’t much of an age difference- it’s personality and interest type. You’d need to find a way to get a truly random sample, for anyone reading this is probably nowhere near random in the slightest.

    So, did Barry Rickroll himself? Part of me would like to think yes, just because that would make him even cooler for nerds like me. Part of me thinks no, because, well, while he’s not really “cool,” he doesn’t seem like the kind of nerd that would be into internet memes.

    But hey, I happen to *like* Barry, thank you very much.* And you do, too, you just don’t realize it. Wiki him, he wrote a LOT of your favorite jingles. He’s like a good neighbor. I’m stuck on him.

    *I may even see his show in Vegas in a few weeks.


  3. Linton #

    About 1/4 of my high school class would recognise a Rickroll, and 3/4 of my film school class, i think that gives an indication.

    It hasn’t spread to the people that couldn’t say, download a torrent file. So it’s not as big as we tend to think.


  4. Swirthe #

    I’d never heard of rickrolling until I read this and subsequently looked it up on wikipedia. I don’t think it’s that well known.


  5. Louise #

    I go to a middle school that consists entirely of Asian kids (we are also all geeks) with the exception of one white catholic fundamentalist who, I have confirmed, does not know what a Rickroll is. Other than the one vagabond, however, we all know what Rickrolls are, and, in fact, spontaneously burst into a rousing rendition of the song in one epic Chinese class.
    So perhaps it is an age difference, or it could just be that the bilingual asian nerd school with 30 students in the eighth grade isn’t the best of controls. Either way, you’ve got to love internet memes, and god bless barry manilow.


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