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.