Album review: Rick Astley’s 50 is modern and strong

The 12 songs on 50 – named in an Adele-style hat-tip to his age – are pure blue-eyed soul, from the gospel-flavoured opening track Keep Singing, to the John Mayer-esque Pieces, a guitar-driven populist tune.

This cover image released by BMG shows, "50," the latest release by Rick Astley. (BMG via AP)
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50

Rick Astley

BMG

Four stars

No, you're not being Rick-rolled. He's back. Rick Astley, the soulful English pop star with the bouffant hair who sang Never Gonna Give You Up in the 1980s, has resurfaced with a new album that's fun, modern and surprisingly strong. It turns out that the joke is on us.

The 12 songs on 50 – named in an Adele-style hat-tip to his age – are pure blue-eyed soul, from the gospel-flavoured opening track Keep Singing, to the John Mayer-esque Pieces, a guitar-driven populist tune. He also gets honky-tonk, electro-funky and folky.

Astley's voice is warm and powerful – with reason: 50 scored his first No 1 in 29 years in the United Kingdom. Astley wrote and produced 50 all alone – and performs all the instruments – proving he kept up with changes in music while we were sending each other internet links with his Never Gonna Give You Up video.

The album's first single Dance is Astley at his winking, over-the-top best. It's nice to finally laugh with him after years of him being the butt of the internet joke.

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