Jude Rogers: Why Rick Astley is the kindred ginger spirit of Jay-Z

Imagine a Jay-Z rapalong at Glastonbury - 100,000 revellers, ripe with musk and spilt lager, trying out their flow to Hard Knock Life

This week my musical reveries have been taken over by two masterful men who have a lot in common. Both were born in the late 60s. Both have cherubic cheeks and deep, resonant voices. Both come from the wrong side of the tracks (a housing project in Brooklyn and, er, Newton-le-Willows), and both get susceptible women to shake their tushes along to their records. OK, one of them has Beyoncé, while the other gets ladies bouncing to his hits in train station flashmobs. But anyway: Jay-Z, meet Rick Astley. He's your kindred ginger spirit.

You may smirk, but over the last fortnight, both these gentlemen have taught us a lot about the way we think about the communal experience of music. First, let's take Jay-Z and the Glastonbury farrago. Ignore the gobshite exclamations of Noel Gallagher, the usually spry man who called hip-hop at Glastonbury "wrong", apparently unaware of the racist implications this comment would carry. Some have defended Noel's stance by saying Jay-Z's music is at odds with the festival's hippy ideal - that his branch of hip-hop is all about booty and bling rather than the countercultural anarchy of Public Enemy or the socially conscious propheteering of Kanye West. They forget that the hippy ideal in music largely descended into me-me-me madness, and that its late-60s legacy spawned self-obsessed rock'n'rollers in love with sex, drugs and money - things that the Gallaghers, those classic examples of boys next door gone grand, haven't exactly shied away from.

Noel missed the point. A hip-hop superstar as Saturday headliner is peculiar because that slot is usually the preserve of the football crowd singalong. It's been occupied in recent years by the Killers, Coldplay, Paul McCartney and Radiohead - all easy to whine along to after 10 cans of Watneys. A rapalong would be something quite different. Imagine 100,000 revellers, ripe with musk, spilt lager and skidmarked underpants, trying out their flow to Hard Knock Life and '03 Bonnie and Clyde. It wouldn't be pretty. Then again, neither would a load of them belching "Soooo Sally can waiiit" to a Somerset sky. Myself, I'm all for something new, as I'm bored of football-style crowd antics and prefer to move my feet than tense my throat. And who knows: if the folk in the mud embrace something different, they might just start enjoying themselves.

Still, there is pleasure in well-known experiences. Let's skip to Slick Rick (I mean Astley) and one of the geeky suckers (I mean me) who got caught up in the swathe of viral links directing the world and its gran to his Never Gonna Give You Up video on YouTube. Watching it, bam, I was nine years old again, smiling at his bloke-next-door popstar-dancing in front of a wire fence dressed in top-to-toe denim. Soon after, I wasn't surprised that a friend texted to see if I was going to the London flashmob (I wasn't - this very modern girl was en route to a hen night, listening to Can), nor was I shocked when I heard of the police monitoring the 400 revellers (hells bells, someone could've started channelling Sonia). Instead, the utter madness of it made me realise that the internet doesn't make people more solipsistic. It does quite the opposite.

The secret truth of the internet is that is brings people together physically and well as virtually. I know of friendships, courtships, even marriages that have begun in the heated, let-your-guard-down environment of a pop group's message board. And in this world of virtual geeks, people have bonded over Rick because he's a classic example of a nerdy underdog who prevailed.

What people tend to forget is that Jay-Z was an underdog too. He, too, was a geeky kid, one from a broken home who got caught up in drugs before his star started to rise. Once the naysayers start to see his similarities to rock and pop's great and good - the very things that helped him become the Glastonbury headliner - they might start bonding behind him, too.

The GuardianTramp

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