LIST OF RICK ASTLEY REVIEWS:
Whenever You Need Somebody (1987)
Hardy har har... I just RickRolled myself...
For those who live under the Internet rock, RickRolling occurred quite a bit in 2007 and 2008 when you'd find yourself unwittingly listening to Rick Astley's 1987 hit single “Never Gonna Give You Up.” This could have occurred anywhere: sporting events, office parties--Astley himself even RickRolled The United States at the Macy's Day Parade. However, most typically, RickRolling would happen when you'd not-so-innocently be surfing YouTube and you think you've stumbled upon a terrifically scandalous video, and... before you knew what hit you... you hear a familiar drum machine roll plays at you. Maybe it's the same sort of drum machine roll that Death plays at you when you die? And then after that, you're treated to one of the most insanely infectious pop tunes that you've ever heard in your life. And that song is like pop-crack. I can't stop listening to it. Whenever I get RickRolled on YouTube, I sit through the whole thing. (Though I use much of that time to reflect why exactly I thought some random YouTube user would have inside information that Michael Jackson's death was faked.)
Even in the years before RickRolling, “Never Gonna Give You Up” was an openly mocked ditty that was a frequent appearance on those nostalgic 'Worst of the '80s' specials I've seen a few times on VH1. What made the song especially notorious were its lyrics, which are about a man who reassures his lady-friend that he'd never, ever leave her, and he sings it as if he was doing her a favor. Naturally, if Tom Cruise had a smooth, sexy voice like Astley's and he were singing it instead, it would've made ladies' eyes flutter all around the world. However, Astley was basically the ginger version of Anthony Michael Hall, so there was far more eye-rolling than eye-fluttering.
Other than that, I think everyone likes the song. I mean, I guess I can't actually speak for *everyone*, but unless you totally hate pop music or something, then you should at least like it a little bit. I mean, the thing is freaking catchy, isn't it? My only criticism of it is that it needed a proper middle-eight section. Instead of that, contents of the chorus is altered slightly and the instrumentation is stipped down. Just boring. (I mean, does anyone really think that brief section in which Astley sings “Never gonna give! Never gonna give!” adds anything to the experience?)
The song--and virtually all the other songs in this album--were written by that British song-producing factory team known as SAW. SAW stands for the names of three guys: Stock, Aitken, and Waterman. Together, they made bank producing albums in the late '80s and early '90s for the likes of Bananarama and Kylie Minogue. Their style was quite distinctive for the time, which--it's strange to think about these days--was on the cutting-edge. Their pop songs were done with a very polished, heavily processed, club-beat style. It was essentially synth-pop evolved from its primitive stages earlier in the '80s when bands like The Human League and Yaz had hits. SAW made as much money as they could with synth-pop, and they totally murdered the art-form in the process! (It wasn't on purpose, mind you. It was kind of like how The Bee Gees murdered disco.)
SAW also knew a thing or two about creating songs with hooks that make the listener want to revisit them time and time again... Now, here's why When I Love Somebody by Rick Astley isn't a very good album: SAW only created one such song here. The other nine songs don't even come close to matching the majestic muzak of “Never Gonna Give You Up.” It didn't even help when they tried cloning that song in “Together Forever"; it's exactly the same thing except none of it sticks to me. Perhaps the second-best song of the album is the title track, which weirdly enough, was a minor hit SAW had produced for O'Chi Brown only a year earlier. Those sneaky cigar chomping, song-recycling bastards! “Slipping Away” is maybe the album's third-best track, which has an OK hook, but... er... please excuse me as I stop playing that and RickRoll myself once more. Oh man, that song is so much fun.
I don't feel the need for describing any of these other songs to you other than to mention how utterly tedious my life feels when I sit through anything in the track list that scored in the C-range. And that was basically the rest of the album. The closing song is only notable for being a cover version of the standard “When I Fall in Love,” but it's nevertheless entirely forgettable. It consists of boring cinematic strings, a slow jazzy rhythm, and a harp doing that harpy thing that harps do... Zzzzzz. Why the hell am I listening to standards, anyway? '80s pop albums shouldn't have standards on them, darn it! That's what '90s pop albums are for! But anyway, this is a poor pop album. On the bright side, Astley himself comes off as a very nice human being. (Hey, I wanted to end this review on a positive note!) 6/15