Let’s go on a little adventure. In 1987, Rick Astley released Never Gonna Give You Up on his debut album, “Whenever You Need Somebody.” By March of 1988, the song was a worldwide #1 and it finished the year 1988 as #4 on the Billboard charts yielding the #1 song of the year to George Michael’s Faith. Astley’s hit launched his career, but by the year 2000, he’d pretty much gone on hiatus and Never Gonna Give You Up, Faith, and all the rest of the 80’s music started appearing on oldies radio stations.
Fast forward to 2006. 4Chan founder Chris Poole thought it would be funny if his website would automatically change the word “egg” to “duck” on his website, so anyone who typed “eggroll” would get “duckroll” instead. It was both infuriating and hilarious for users of the site. In fact, the eggroll/duckroll quirk became an inside joke for 4Chan users and they started calling it “duckrolling.”
A short time later, the internet was ablaze with rumors about an upcoming video game, GTA IV that had been in development, but had been delayed, and internet users everywhere were desperate for any news about the game’s release. What happened next would change lives–an anonymous user posted on 4Chan that the trailer for GTA IV had finally been released, but when users went to click the link there was no video game. Instead what they found was Astley’s music video, Never Gonna Give You Up. In that instant, duckrolling became Rickrolling. The joke spread across the internet like the world’s most annoying virus. It culminated in November of 2008 when Rick Astley himself rickrolled the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by interrupting the show to sing his hit single.
How impactful was the internet’s best joke? In late 2009 and into 2010 three different music videos were uploaded to YouTube: George Michael’s Faith, Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, and Ke$ha’s Tik Tok (Tik Tok was the #1 song of 2010 for comparison). 10 years later, I’d ask you to guess which of these three music videos has the most views.
Faith has just over 25 Million views.
Tik Tok has a respectable 533 Million views.
Never Gonna Give You Up has 742 Million views.
That’s more than Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer. The meme even appeared at the end of Wreck it Ralph 2 when Disney teased a Sneak Peek of Frozen 2.
All that is to say this: I’d been thinking about writing a blog about one of my favorite songs, Everlong by Foo Fighters, and I’d sort of forgotten about the idea until I opened up YouTube this morning and saw this at the top of my feed: Rick Astley – Everlong (Foo Fighters Live Cover). And I thought to myself, “Nice try internet. There is no way I’m falling for this one.” I clicked it anyway and I have to tell you Rick Astley’s still got it. His version was so good that I decided to go ahead and write the blog. Essentially, I was un-rickrolled, or Dave Grohl’d if you will.
Everlong is another song that grew in popularity long after it was released. Actually, the studio recording didn’t get much traction until Dave Grohl re-released an acoustic version that stripped away all the rock and roll and highlighted the emotionally gripping lyrics of this love song. There are a ton of theories about who or what the song is about, but Dave’s never explicitly answered the question despite the world’s best attempts to find out–as he joked with music writer Al Horner in 2015: “BETTER AND MORE HANDSOME JOURNALISTS THAN YOU HAVE TRIED, PAL!”
Here’s what he did say about Everlong: “When you play a song like that every night, so many people connect with it, that that communal energy makes it magical every night. Every time I sing, ‘If everything could ever feel this real forever’ and everyone else is singing at the same time, that’s pretty powerful you know? It’s pretty strong. Even on your worst night.”
When you take a closer look at the song lyrics, you realize how that deep connection with others really is at the core of the song’s meaning. To be so in love with somebody that when they sing, you sing and it’s perfect harmony. The music video deepened this idea by highlighting that it’s not just singing and being in-tune with one another, but that your hopes and dreams have become my hopes and dreams and vice versa. That is, to be so in love that your future and my future are inextricably intertwined–because they are.
To be Christian is to acknowledge that all the things God wants for you are all the same things God wants for everybody else. That in acknowledging that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, our only hope for the future is that it ends with and in Christ. There’s an already, but not yet kind of finality to it that informs how we choose to live today–which gives an overbearing weight to the phrase “Go to Hell” when we get mad at someone. That is to say, you and I are so at odds with one another that when it’s all over my God is going to punish you for all eternity while I chill in heaven.
As ridiculous as it sounds when you put it that way, that is the very core of the disunity that pervades our culture–a profound deficiency of love. I’m reminded of the statistics Philip quoted a few weeks ago–a staggering percentage of people, Christians and non-Christians alike, do not see Love as an essential doctrine to their belief systems. Go back and watch his opening sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 on our brand new, amazing website 🙂
I don’t know about you, but 2020 hasn’t exactly panned out the way I thought it would. In fact, 2020 is probably the worst rickroll of all time; this generation’s poster child for unmet expectations. It’s been a year stricken with anxiety, fear, anger, disorientation, dissatisfaction, and tension on a global scale. In other words, we haven’t sung well together and we haven’t loved each other well. Everything feels hyper-polarized, and when we don’t like what someone has to say about something we un-follow, cancel, call them out, or tell them to go to hell–a quality that is, fortunately, not shared by the one in whom we live and move and have our being.
But because that’s who our God is, our journey to wholeness, is inextricably intertwined with our neighbors’–even the ones we disagree with. Thus, God continues to beckon us into unity–albeit a unity marked by the remarkable diversity of God’s divine creativity.
And I wonder, when I sing along with you…