What's perhaps most insulting about the video's 4k resolution is that it attempts to gentrify the very thing that made Rickrolling so hilarious in the first place.
On January 31st, a crispy, remastered version of Rick Astley's iconic "Never Gonna Give You Up" started making the rounds on the internet, and the reactions so far have been mixed.
Those who grew up amidst the financial crisis of the mid-2000s know that Rick Astley and his signature Pompadour were once the paradigm of meme culture. The "Never Gonna Give You Up" video was used as more of a means to an end: to prank unsuspecting friends looking for scarce details on Grand Theft Auto 4 or to send to your worst enemies disguised as a trailer for The Dark Knight, its blurred, low-res video quality and cacophonous sound all part of the gag.
For the unsuspecting, it would serve almost as a jump scare; its pounding drum cadence and abhorrent synth quality stripping away any sense of false hope the viewer had when they clicked the link labeled "EXCLUSIVE GRAND THEFT AUTO 4 PREVIEW." Headphones would be thrown across the room, curse words hurled, friendships shattered. "The reaction was pure rage," Shawn Cotter, inventor of the Rickroll, said in an interview.
As we all attempt to digest this 60fps revamp, what's perhaps most insulting about the video's 4k resolution is that it attempts to gentrify the very thing that made the gag so hilarious in the first place. The once near-pixelated video is now glossy and polished, a velvety sheen stitched through every character, so they pop out from their muted backgrounds like a terrifying 3-D movie. "60fps 4k Astley rick astley (sic) isn't real, he can't hurt you," wrote a traumatized viewer on Twitter.
The flaws of the original video, once unrecognizable in its grainy lo-res predecessor, now stick out in the remaster like a collection of moles. Rick Astley's thin, pursed lips are now so detailed that they show exactly how bad Rick Astley was at lip-syncing. One dancer twirls around only to finish her twirl facing a white brick wall rather than the camera.
Also, why is Rick Astley performing, full-effort, with an array of backup dancers at an empty concert venue that seems to be hours away from opening? And who told Rick that a baggy turquoise shirt and light denim jeans were a good combination? I originally thought it was a Canadian Tuxedo type of deal, but high-res Rick Astley has proven that to be a lie as well.
As these cringe-worthy tidbits float to the surface amidst this reboot, it merely points out how shallow our childhoods actually were.
The video's set pieces look as if they're cardboard. The Black dancers, (special shoutout to the agile, nameless bartender) are significantly better than the white dancers but of only get a fraction of the screen time. Rick, meanwhile, is as stiff as a mannequin. Once applauded for his boyish charm, Astley looks rigid and almost constipated as he sways with a smile on his face.
Watching "Never Gonna Give You Up" 24 years later is like seeing an old friend get a facelift. The parts that make them unique are still inherently there, but they're amplified to a point where it gets hard to look at them after a while.
Rickrolling used to be an earnest gag, a "family-friendly" troll that we'd send to our grandmas or uncles, the piss poor quality of "Never Gonna Give You Up" representative of simple "gotcha!" trickery. But as the 2020s have demonstrated so far, everything we thought to be true and wholesome was actually a loosely fabricated lie.
It turns out we just needed to look a little clearer at what was in front of us, and unfortunately that even applies to Rickrolling.
Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up (Remastered 4K 60 FPS) www.youtube.com