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Rick Astley, born again via YouTube

Have you been "Rickrolled?" If not, you could be at any moment. It's not painful -- unless you find 1980s pop icons painful (and some do). If you get an email from a friend or a chat request in your instant messaging client that says "Hey, this is cool -- check it out!" then you could be well on your way to a Rickroll. Blogs and websites have joined in by posting links to photos of Britney Spears or something else newsworthy that turns out to be a Rickroll. 

Instead of taking you to something worthwhile, the Rickroll link instead sends you to YouTube, and a video of the classic (or classically awful) 1980s pop singer Rick Astley performing his hit "Never Gonna Give You Up." Astley is the British nightclub singer who hit the charts in 1988 thanks to his deep baritone singing voice, a voice that was in dramatic contrast to his prep-school white kid looks. In the video, he does his best to strike pop singer poses in a trenchcoat, but only succeeds in looking like a teenager performing in a high-school musical. (Update: for April Fool's Day, YouTube is Rickrolling its users).

Who invented the Rickroll? No one really knows. Much like other "viral" Internet phenomena such as "lolcatz," it just seemed to emerge from the Web one day and within weeks it had swept across the globe. One version of the YouTube video -- posted by the site -- has gotten more than 8.5 million hits, and another version has more than 5 million views. Protesters demonstrating against the Church of Scientology have even engaged in a real-life version of the Rickroll, by playing the song over portable stereos and singing along.

The singer himself, who is now 42 (but still looks 10 years younger), gave an interview to a blogger for the L.A. Times recently and seemed fairly sanguine about his 20-year-old song becoming an Internet "meme." He said the phenomenon was "a bit spooky, innit?" Astley -- who says he has no plans for a remake (but is doing a tour with some other 1980s stars) -- goes on to say that he thinks “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.”

Astley says his number one consideration -- like fathers everywhere confronted by behaviour from 20 years ago -- is that "my daughter doesn't get embarrassed by it."

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