Never Gonna Give You Up
Writer(s): Matt Stock, Mike Aitken, Peter Waterman (see lyrics here)
Released: July 27, 1987
First Charted: August 8, 1987
Peak: 12 US, 2 GR, 11 RR, 13 AC, 15 UK, 13, 17 AU, 8 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 1.12 UK, 7.09 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 1301.85 video, 606.03 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Some songs are hits of the moment, to be quickly forgotten in passing years. Others – for sometimes bizarre reasons – enter the public consciousness and never go away. In 2007, an Internet phenomenon known as rick-rolling emerged. People received links and opened them, but instead of getting what they expected they were subjected to a video clip of Rick Astley singing his 20-year-old hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Stereogum’s Tom Breihan said, they “could’ve presumably used any song in the vast history of recorded music, but they went with ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’…[because it] is a bad song, and it’s a catchy bad song. It could get stuck in someone’s head, and it could ruin that person’s day.” SG Ruin a person’s day? Lighten up.
Astley himself had a much better sense of humor and perspective about it. He said, “I think it’s just one of those odd things where something gets picked up and people run with it. But that’s what brilliant about the internet…If this had happened around some kind of rock song, with a lyric that really meant something – a Bruce Springsteen, “God Bless America,” or an anti-something kind of song, I could kind of understand that. But for something as – and I don’t mean to belittle it, because I still think it’s a great pop song – but it’s a pop song. Do you know what I mean? It doesn’t have any kind of weight behind it, as such. But maybe that’s the irony of it.” SG
“The pasty and deep-voiced young man…came from a rural English village called Newton-Le-Willows.” SG He started as a drummer with bands like Give Way and FBI, but “pulled a Phil Collins and became the singer” SG because, as he said, he was writing most of the songs. FB He got his big break when producer Peter Waterman heard him sing. The famed Stock-Aitken-Waterman team “basically colonized the UK charts” SG in the late ‘80s with hits from Kylie Minogue, Bananarama, and Dead or Alive. All told, they had more than a hundred top 40 UK hits. LW
The ”shy vocalist with the boy-next-door looks” FB started working at Waterman’s PWL studio – making tea while also learning the technical aspects of recording and making demos. FB When they released Astley’s first single in the summer of 1987, it “practically made Astley an overnight star.” SG “The blippy bassline and handclap-driven drum track” SG is “pretty much swiped wholesale” SG from “Trapped,” a 1985 house single by Colonel Abrams which hit #3 in the UK. However, “Give You Up” “has none of the gospel-descended euphoric desperation that drives so much house” SG being marked instead by “the chintziest, shallowest Motown pastiche you’re ever going to hear. The strings are transparently fake. The horn stabs might be even faker. Over that beat, Rick Astley bellows thoroughly generic love-song lyrics from straight off of the Stock-Aitken-Waterman assembly line.” SG “Astley’s voice has all the chesty showiness of his British white-soul ancestor Tom Jones, but he has absolutely none of Jones’ swagger.” SG
The song became the biggest hit of 1987 in the UK and went on to top the charts in America in 1988.
First posted 10/18/2022; last updated 11/24/2022.