Review Summary: You just got rickroll'd.
Just a few years ago, Rick Astley was one of countless eighties pop stars who had faded away into obscurity during the nineties. Maybe one would receive a “oh yea, that’s the guy with the really funny voice” remark if his name was brought up, but for the most part it would be no different than mentioning Mister Mister or Peter Cetera. In 2007, however, a phenomenon was born. The fad of ‘rickrolling’ turned Rick Astley back into a name everyone knew, maybe not because of the music he made, but hey, any publicity is good publicity, right? Everything stems back to the year of 1987, when Astley’s debut album Whenever You Need Somebody
was released. It had everything, bouncy 80s synthesizers, a powerful voice, and a solid gimmick for good measure. The soul/R&B-tinged style that Stock Aitken Waterman crafted for Rick Astley’s hilariously mismatched voice proved to be a fantastic success during the decade of excess.
The first reaction for those who did not yet know who Rick Astley was back in the eighties was probably something along the lines of thinking "Who's comeback album is this?" Rather than sounding like a new artist on the block, Astley came off as one of the many 70s soul, R&B, and funk musicians who were making a comeback during the 80s, utilizing a soul sound mixed in with the near all-electronic sound that was dominating airwaves at the time. Kool & The Gang, The Commodores, and Luther Vandross were all guilty of this revival, so it was upon the listener to take a stab at guessing which old, forgotten 70s act this was.
But wait! This is actually a ginger kid who somehow received the voice of a 300-pound black man at birth! Not only that, but this is actually a decent album. Beyond that little white kid, beyond the rickrolling, and beyond the gimmick lies an album that might actually be respected in today’s world if the expected black R&B singer was behind the vocals instead of Rick Astley. The whole album in general sounds like your typical soul work, except this time, completely saturated with synthesizers. Each track shares the common theme of love, and unfortunately that is not the only connection between each track. Although there are exceptions, several of the songs tend to run together, as the dense synthesizer sound only offers so much originality within each track. Astley’s voice does not help much with this issue, it may be powerful, but it also suffers from being relatively one-dimensional.
The lyrics throughout the album were clearly designed for any form of woman, working mom, teenage high-schooler, it really didn’t matter. And the depth of the lyrics clearly didn’t matter either, with lines like ”We're no strangers to love/You know the rules and so do I/A full commitment's what I'm thinking of/You wouldn't get this from any other guy”
being prevalent throughout the entire album. It seems that most of the songwriting time went into the ridiculously catchy vocal melodies, rather than crafting some thoughtful lyrics. The number one hits Never Gonna Give You Up
and Together Forever
may not be the strongest vocally, but both succeed in utilizing the synth bass lines to create a powerful backdrop for Astley’s equally big voice. A “musical synthesizer journey” is even included with the rocker You Move Me
, pulling what must have been over ten layers of synthesizers from each and every corner that unfortunately take a back seat to Astely’s vocals for most the song.
Even though the songwriting well ran dry for a good portion of the album, Whenever You Need Somebody
is another catchy eighties pop effort that produced several hit tracks. Although the sound is clearly outdated today, several songs sound just as good as they did when they were first released. Given the chance, someone should put aside their ‘rickroll’ video and actually check out a song for two, for Rick Astley’s huge voice managed to end up on songs other than Never Gonna Give You Up