A Rickroll is a particular Internet prank in which a link that supposedly goes to something relevant to the conversation is actually a link to
La-laaaa, La-laaa, Lalalalala-laaaa, badoom badoom badoom
We're no strangers to love... You know the rules, and so do I
A full commitments what Im thinking of
You wouldn't get this from any other guy...
The meme started on 4chan with the duckroll: the action of linking to a post in another thread only to annoy people. Posts in the same thread just get highlighted, but to view a post in another thread you need to load the entire thread—there is no way to tell if the link is from this or another thread without scripts or manually checking each post number. It used a picture of a duck on wheels◊ as an image attached to the target post. However, there's also a case to be made that Mystery Science Theater 3000 foresaw the concept in their riff on Attack of the The Eye Creatures. Nick Lowe's song "All Men Are Liars", which mocks Astley and at one point transitions into the first line of "Never Gonna Give You Up"'s chorus, is another contender for an early adopter of the Rickroll.
Rickrolling has become one of the few Internet memes to break into larger popular culture in some fashion — there have been newspaper articles on the subject, and even real-world Rickrolls where spectators at some public event end up watching the Astley video. Astley himself flips between being amused by the meme, and being annoyed at getting asked about it over and over.
The all-time champion of the sport is Cartoon Network, which successfully conspired with Rick Astley himself to prank the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008. Rickrolling was also used in Scribblenauts, and was even invoked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when the House of Representatives launched its YouTube channel. The Oregon State Legislature managed to do a Rickroll without anybody noticing. Perhaps crowning the entire phenomenon was the White House Communications Department, which, in response to complaints on Twitter that a fiscal policy press conference was too boring, Tweeted a link to something it promised would be much more interesting. It turned out to be a Rick Roll. Great Britain unfortunately missed a golden opportunity during the "celebration of British pop music" segment of the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony to rickroll the entire world.
The meme now automatically makes any previous usage of the song Hilarious in Hindsight, such as Joel Robinson abruptly singing the song during one experiment (because of a character's resemblance to Rick Astley), making it seem like he was Rick Rolling the film. Kids Incorporated also featured characters covering the song during one concert spot. And then there's the re-release of the 1983 film adaptation of I Am the Cheese, which already had some Narmy Soundtrack Dissonance, playing the upbeat song during the (presumably originally silent) end credits, after the depressing ending, making for a particularly jarring experience. Another particularly notable example is Ralph Breaks the Internet where The Stinger promises a preview of the Frozen sequel only for the viewer to be hit with Ralph singing this song.
Variations include the BarackRoll and ReichRoll. When YouTube presented its "1911 Videos" for April Fool's Day 2011, viewers were "Ruth Roll'd" with a cute dancer. Users of The Miniatures Page have a variation in which you instead link to a picture of Sean Connery as Zed. Brain Bleach ensues. In YouTube nowadays, it's somewhat easier to know if a video is a disguised Rick Roll - you just need to see if below the keywords is "Features content from: "Rick Astley Official Channel," or nowadays, "Music: Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up."
Popularity of the Rickroll phenomenon has led to fans remixing Astley's song with other pop culture artifacts, including Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (it seems both Ear Worms share the exact same time signature)note . You can listen to the mashup here if interested. And no, Bill O'Reilly was not the very first Rick Roll victim.* For Chrono Trigger fans, there's the RoboRoll.
It's entirely possible that the first ever victim of the Rick Roll (in a meta sense) might have been Kylie Minogue. Both she and Astley were members of the Stock Aitken Waterman hit factory back in the eighties. Apparently, they rushed through the production of her song "I Should Be So Lucky" because he was supposed to use the studio to record later that day. Looking at the production dates, it's not impossible to believe she was the first person to have something sidelined thanks to a performance of "Never Gonna Give You Up."
The original Rickroll video was deleted from YouTube on 24 February 2010 but restored soon afterward. Later in 2014, however, YouTube began to delete it again off and on up until February 2015 when it was banned seemingly permanently, before it came back again shortly afterwards and just in time for April Fools' Day. As of early 2015, cellular provider Virgin Mobile is using the song in a number of their commercials (some of which include appearances by Astley himself), which may or may not explain why YouTube banned the Rickroll.
Also in early 2015, an inversion of the Rickroll started popping up on Tumblr, where something that clearly looks like a Rickroll instead turns out to be Something Completely Different. One of the more infamous ones is an MP3 that plays the opening drumbeat of "Never Gonna Give You Up" before immediately cutting to a certain segment of Imogen Heap's "Hide And Seek". Another version is an audio post showing a screencap of Rick Astley smiling with the caption "you know what it is". It starts with the infamous electronic drum intro to "Never Gonna Give You Up" but then, immediately, "Sandstorm" by Darude starts playing. It turns out to be a mashup of the two songs.
- ♫Never gonna give you upNever gonna let you downNever gonna run around and desert youNever gonna make you cryNever gonna say goodbyeNever gonna tell a lie and hurt you♫