Rick Astley

WELCOME TO 1987. The Reagan era is at its glorious height. It's the world of Robocop and California Uber Alles: everything is a big loud technological spectacle, drenched in easy pleasure and artificiality. The romanticized sexual liberation of the '60s, then the hedonistic excess of the '70s, has now become (like everything else) a business transaction. Prince is seduced by a girl named Nikki who runs the purple god through a complex assembly line of fuckery and even leaves him a polite, businesslike thank-you note, while Madonna refuses to give it up to you unless you've got an investment portfolio impressive enough to retire at 40 (with a reasonable daily allowance of coke). Fuck being romantic - what can you do for me? Because if you can't get me off or score me a wad of cash, sorry man, I don't got time for you. Give me surface appeal and immediate interest, or get out of the way - either get on the big bus of C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M or be left behind in Squaresville! And so the world was presented with an orgy of huge hair, ornate guitar shredding, and ridiculous outfits, all there to suck our cocks and snag a fifty out of our sweaty palms the second it's over. And yet.

Well now, here comes Rick Fucking Astley. Somehow, this guy was the biggest hit of 1987. Christ, just look at him - it's like the mountain of '80s ridiculous was somehow turned upside down and balanced on its tip to produce this creature made of boyish and clean-cut, the unexpected answer to the tasteless world-weary sexpot. Rick Astley has no comic books about him. His mop of red hair is kept neatly trimmed and well within the limits of decency. His standard attire is nice, clean jeans and a sports jacket (and whatever else you think about him, folks, Rick can rock a collar like no other pop star since). Where other characters in his videos will strip off their clothes and do backflips off walls, Rick just sort of stands in one place grinning awkwardly and doing this silly shuffling dance. The music itself, vintage SAW material, is a curious mix of time periods: the base of it all is the soulful, dance-friendly beat of Chicago house (still a novelty at the time), paired up with orchestration and harmony lifted straight out of '70s disco and funk. Actually, the goofy synthesizer basslines are usually the only dead giveaways that it's '80s material. And mixed somewhere in the middle (never on top) is Rick's glorious baritone, smooth as a shaved snatch and as irresistably likeable as it is bland. And Jesus God, all the songs are about love. Not fucked-up and weird sexual situations, just love. Look at some of the track titles: “Take Me To Your Heart,” “You Move Me,” “Together Forever,” and, of course, the infamous ”Never Gonna Give You Up”. There's no subtlety or innuendo in sight - the lyrics are always direct, confessional, and gloriously stupid. Why did anyone in '87, especially teenagers saturated with ideas about greed, deviance, and guilt-free sex, bother to care about this guy? I mean, fair enough, the music is some of the catchiest shit ever written and it makes you want to dance like a motherfucker. But what did anyone find appealing about the image of this guy, who seems so completely removed from 80S SPIRITS?

Maybe Rick (and here I'm talking about Rick as a kind of idea, rather than an actual dude) has more to him than anyone realized. It's hard to nail Rick down. He's not really a nerd despite his undeniable awkwardness, but he's also not an ambitious go-getter out to wring his living out of the world. He's boyish and modest yet doesn't seem like a moralistic goody-goody, nor is he a rebel spirit with a sexy motorcycle. He's not naive (he is NO STRANGER TO LOOOVE~), but doesn't come across as cynical either. Rather, what you've got with Rick Astley is a sensitive and incurable romantic living in the most materialistic world ever while knowing exactly what's going on. Sure, maybe he's not all that happy about it - maybe he thinks things would be better if people were more interested in poetry than sex and money. But the basic fact is that for whatever reason he is crazy in love with you. Everyone else is out fucking and Rick is basically okay with that, but it's not for him. He just wants to make you happy (eternally). You two may not be having sex - hell, you might not even be dating - but he's not in it for the pussy, and is willing to leave that to others. You may have just spent two days straight getting your brains fucked out by a German underwear model you met in an LA nightclub (tweaking on Columbian the whole time) - well, Rick might be disappointed, but he's come to expect that kind of thing and worse, and he'll be waiting for when you need someone to drive you home at 3:00 am after a party. He's a romantic, but also realistic. He knows that you're out to gett off, are completely unable to commit to anything, and don't really care about his feelings. But he's there for you anyways, nowhere better expressed than in the title track of Whenever You Need Somebody. “You don't have to say you love me, I just wanna be with you.”

Rick Astley is a character who's there to be mistreated and forgotten by the twisted '80s vixens that he falls for. Bill Hicks was basically right about the having-no-dick thing, but that's the entire appeal. He doesn't want you for your body, and he's not interested in impressing you with how awesome he is (the vocals on his first two albums can be described as “understated”). He's just the only guy in the world who cares about you beyond your bank account. Now, none of this is to say that all of Rick's sales represent some kind of overturning of '80s hypersexuality. Actually, just the reverse. There is no fucking doubt in my mind that every female who bought his album was fantasizing about dragging this shy young piece of boyish flesh into her living room and riding him on the couch until he popped like a can of warm Pepsi (THE CHOICE OF A NEW GENERATION). After all, the best thing about anything pure and decent is figuring out how to corrupt it asap.

The blandness is only on the surface. Look at him more carefully, and Rick Astley is one of the most complex cast members of '80s pop culture… but, of course, the genuineness and never-giving-you-up stuff was itself a calculated marketing effort from a soulless, mechanized pop music factory. That's the '80s for you.


<Eazy-F> it occurs to me that Rick Astley must have been the '80s answer to Madonna

<Eazy-F> you guys know where I'm going with this

<Pirate_Jack> n-no

<Eazy-F> how do you respond to the patently sexualized, cynical modern slut

<Eazy-F> with an awkward, romantic british crooner who can't dance

<Cutie_Hermit> I SMELL A SITCOM!

<Eazy-F> the logic of it is perfect

<Eazy-F> Rick Astley does not want to tie you up in his room and whip you for two hours and then mean fuck your exhausted body with no concern for your own well-being

<Eazy-F> he wants to leave a valentine and some chocolates in your desk before you get to class (HE WILL NOT PUT HIS NAME ON THEM THOUGH!! HE WOULD BE WAY TOO EMBARRASSED)

<Cutie_Hermit> That's the Terminator soundtrack's job

<Eazy-F> bringing you flowers would be just right out for Rick Astley

<Eazy-F> that is just one step too far

<Pirate_Jack> he'd maybe put a mix tape in your locker

<Pirate_Jack> if he was feeling risky

<Eazy-F> Madonna is the one who gives you an emotionless fuck in the parking lot behind the school (her third one that day), and steals $20 out of your wallet when you're not looking

<Eazy-F> Rick Astley is the boy who will walk you to the nurse's office when you have got a bad headache or a flu

<Pirate_Jack> man eazy that is almost too much

<Pirate_Jack> you make me want to cuddle rick astley

<Eazy-F> Rick will ride you home on the back of his bicycle when you miss the bus

<Eazy-F> he will go well out of his way and not ask anything in return

<Pirate_Jack> if you stay home sick he'll bring your homework over

<Pirate_Jack> maybe come in, make you some soup

<Eazy-F> and spend 30 minutes all teaching you what you missed in class

<Eazy-F> (he took really good notes)

<Cutie_Hermit> Will he foot the bill for your abortion?

<Eazy-F> oh come on, you KNOW there's no way Rick wouldn't use protection

<Cutie_Hermit> I didn't say it was his

<Eazy-F> oh

<Eazy-F> OH

<Eazy-F> then yeah, totally

<Cutie_Hermit> uh huh

<Eazy-F> he will sit with you at the clinic

<Eazy-F> and try to make you feel okay about the whole thing

<Pirate_Jack> I would think he'd be there afterwards, ala fast times at ridgemont high

<Eazy-F> Rick Astley does not ask anyone out for the prom and he plans to sit it out, because he thinks none of the girls would be interested in a shy duder like him (oh if he only knew)

<Eazy-F> but if you cannot get a date then he will totally kind of sheepishly smile and go with you

<Eazy-F> and he will make sure that you have a good time (even if he's a little embarrassed about it)

<Pirate_Jack> he'll dance with you, but only the slow songs

<Eazy-F> meanwhile Madonna is having a SM threesome in the ladies' room

<Eazy-F> man I can't think of anymore sweet things for Rick Astley to do for you

<Eazy-F> all I can imagine is your stumbling across his secret notebook of love poems

<Pirate_Jack> oh! he will stay after school to tutor you if you have any problems understanding schoolwork

<Pirate_Jack> are all the poems early versions of all his songs?

<Eazy-F> (most of which are unfinished or illegible, because he has massacred them with corrections and is really critical with himself)


<Cutie_Hermit> what the hell are you saying?

<Cutie_Hermit> his songs are actual things that he has done

<Cutie_Hermit> that is why they exist in CD or cassette format

<Eazy-F> WELL YES but you see

<Eazy-F> we're trying to imagine Rick Astley in '80S HIGH

<Eazy-F> his songs are more like things that would play over the soundtrack as he is doing other things (he does not actually hear the songs)

<Pirate_Jack> man you could watch a movie with Rick under a blanket and he would completely not try to feel you up

<Pirate_Jack> also I'm imagining him in the suit/tie in high school

<Eazy-F> YES

<Eazy-F> well okay I mean

<Eazy-F> here I am, the average '80s Rick Astley fan

<Eazy-F> here's the thing

<Eazy-F> I am NOT the one Rick actually has a thing for


<Eazy-F> instead I am the girl who basically wants to get Rick drunk and take his first time in a glorious one-night stand

<Eazy-F> I think that is what is going on, psychologically

<Pirate_Jack> who IS the girl RIck as a thing for, then?

<Cutie_Hermit> Can I go ahead and imagine Cyndi Lauper at 80's High then


<Eazy-F> Rick would not go for the class president

<Cutie_Hermit> IT WASN'T AN ANSWER

<Tron> …ok, you need some help here, Fucky.

<Tron> This is getting disturbing.

<Eazy-F> he would see something beautiful in some totally average girl or in the bad girl/delinquent

<Pirate_Jack> I kind of imagine he'd date an ugly girl just because of the combinaton of low self-esteem and sympathy

<Tron> I mean, if it was some random crack head you found a picture of, it'd be one thing, but…this is just wrong.

<Eazy-F> man I'm just hoping I'm getting laughs here.

<Pirate_Jack> you've brought love back to my heart


<patito> I'd watch a show with Rick Astley in this setting.

<Eazy-F> it might get kind of boring

<Pirate_Jack> maybe a movie in the style of an 80s teen movie?


<Eazy-F> …actually I could probably watch that for quite awhile.

<Eazy-F> christ, I watched Nana all the way through, I mean seriously.