HE HASN'T bothered the charts in 20 years, so you might call '80s pop star Rick Astley a surprise inclusion on the list of nominees for MTV Europe's Best Act Ever to be announced next month.
Astley, the baby-faced crooner who sang the cheesy 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up, is up against U2, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Green Day and Tokio Hotel.
At last count, Astley had an astonishing 99.98% of the 20 million votes cast on MTV's online poll — but the washed-up warbler's nomination is no bizarre error: MTV has simply been "Rickrolled".
Astley's sudden popularity is the result of an internet prank campaign that began as a geeky joke 18 months ago and has grown into a web craze of monster proportions. To be "Rickrolled" is to be unwittingly redirected to a video clip of Never Gonna Give You Up — a prank that has no apparent point other than to illicit a giggle from the unsuspecting viewer.
In just one week, the site has recorded 80,000 hits and lodged several million votes.
Mr Lancaster said Astley was far worthier of the Best Act Ever award than the other nominees. "The majority of the other entrants in the category for Best Act Ever simply don't belong there," he said.
"If we were being honest, you'd have groups like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones."
He said the campaign was also a rebellion against popular media — "a chance for people to make a statement that we don't wish to be dictated to on what we should and shouldn't like any more".
Astley, now 42 and semi-retired, seems both amused and slightly embarrassed by all the attention. ''It's all so bizarre, strange and weird because it has nothing to do with me really," he said of the "Rickrolling" phenomenon.
On April Fools' Day this year, YouTube "Rickrolled" its users by linking every featured video on its main page to the Astley clip. Since then, live "Rickrollers" have ambushed anti-Scientology protests and performed in London tube stations.
While Mr Lancaster is yet to hear from Astley personally, he received an email yesterday from his manager, who revealed Astley had been invited to the award ceremony.