In 2007, YouTube was a lake of primordial internet soup, and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” was a fish that grew legs. It crawled onto land, gasping for clicks and relevance, and along the way it formed some lungs. It was rough, but it was all we had.
If “Never Gonna Give You Up” was a person, I would lease an apartment with it. After marrying, we would settle down in the countryside with our two kids and medium-sized dog, before slowly drifting apart. Eventually I would remember that it was my original love and that nothing could replace it, and would come right back. “Never Gonna Give You Up” is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and the rainbow itself. Listening to “Never Gonna Give You Up” is like thinking of a simile when you thought you had run out of ideas.
This song taught me more about life in its three and a half minutes than the timespan of my birth through 4th grade combined. I divide my life into two distinct stages- before I had listened to “Never Gonna Give You Up” and after. In order to provide a balanced and accurate review of Astley’s newest album, 50, I must first review these two time periods.
1996-2007: At the beginning of this period, I spoke my first word. Content. I didn’t know what it meant, but I felt a primal craving for it. When I was two, the internet was only used by government officials, nerds, and Koko the Gorilla. I was approximately none of those things. My second word was “void”. Overall, this period of my life was a 2/7.
2007-2016: I listened to “Never Gonna Give You Up”. My life finally had meaning. 6/7.
The title, 50, comes from Astley’s current age. It is also the amount of times in an average day that Rick Astley is asked to sing “Never Gonna Give You Up”. 50 is how many milliseconds I listened to each song on the album before realizing that they are not as good as “Never Gonna Give You Up”. If I had 50 cents for every time somebody told me they didn’t like Rick Astley, I would have 0 cents. 50 is also the total number of US states where Rick Astley is a cultural icon.
Rick Astley has permeated our hearts, our memes, and our political conventions. But his newest album, 50, is kind of boring. He has ditched the funky beats of the 80’s, instead relying primarily on his voice, which is not very meme-y. 50 is actually 45 minutes long, and could be better spent listening to “Never Gonna Give You Up” 12.8 times through.