Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 August 2020

10 music videos with more than two billion views on YouTube

From 'Despacito' to 'Baby Shark Dance', the list is as colourful as it is varied

Shakira, Psy and Adele are part of the one billion views club on YouTube. 
Shakira, Psy and Adele are part of the one billion views club on YouTube. 

There's a new member of YouTube's musical billionaires' club.

With their 2000 track In the End, US rockers Linkin’ Park have added another entry into the rarefied field of music videos achieving a billion views.

That said, with more than 100 such videos in the list already, In the End needs another steep climb to reach the top of the YouTube mountain.

The road to the summit becomes intriguingly narrow and varied once you get to the two or three billion mark.

At present, there are 13 videos with more than three billion views, of which five have achieved four billion, two have exceeded five billion and only one has reached the promised land of more than six billion views.

From the reggaeton vibes of Luis Fonsi’s Despacito to the K-pop sugar rush of Gangnam Style by Psy, YouTube’s biggest music videos are a varied bunch.

This all goes to show that there is no real formula when it comes to creating that next viral sensation. So with that in mind, here are 10 music videos with more than two billion views on YouTube.

1. 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee (6.84 billion)

There are viral music videos and then there is Despacito. Released in January 2017, the video began Luis Fonsi's year-long takeover, during which he dominated both radio and online. Three years on, it continues to achieve strong streaming numbers to maintain its position as the most-watched music video on YouTube.

And how does Fonsi feel about it? When he spoke to The National at the end of 2017, he said that having a viral hit is akin chasing a juggernaut.

"Everything has gone by so fast that it’s tough for me to have a grasp of what’s going on,” he said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I have been really enjoying it, but I will eventually take some time off to really take it all in and just really understand the magnitude of all.”

2. 'Baby Shark Dance' by Pinkfong (5.88 billion)

This is the children's version of Despacito and has probably racked up an equal number of sighs and eye rolls from parents since its 2016 release. It is said that the song – about a family of sharks on a day out – traces its origins back to 20th century campfire singalongs. It became a modern sensation, however, when South Korean education company Pinkfong created an animated video sung by 10-year-old Korean-American singer Hope Segoine. Children and families have been doo, doo, doo-ing to this song ever since.

3. 'Shape of You' by Ed Sheeran (4.86 billion)

It was released on YouTube on January 30, 2017, and it only took 97 days for the video to enter the billion views club. A lot of this is down to the soulful premise of the video that gently breaks down societal stereotypes. Sheehan plays a boxer being coached by a black female champion, with that connection in the ring leading to a romance. Sheeran went on to win a Grammy Award in 2018 for Best Pop Solo Performance with this song.

4. 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth (4.62 billion)

It's the music video that made even grown men cry. The song was commissioned for the soundtrack to 2015 blockbuster Furious 7, and in it rapper Wiz Khalifa and singer Charlie Puth deliver a stirring tribute to the action franchise star Paul Walker, who died in a car crash in 2013. What gives the track its lump-in-the-throat factor is its video featuring scenes of Walker from previous films in The fast and the Furious franchise. It ends with Walker driving off into the sunset, before the screen turns white and the words “For Paul” are displayed. As far as tributes go, this was a heartfelt and elegant send-off.

5. 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars (3.88 billion)

Ever wished your life was a music video? Uptown Funk should be the one. What's not to like? It has impossibly cool threads, a crazy party, spring sunshine and walking along to the soundtrack of one of the funkiest songs of the past two decades. Uptown Funk sounds like the best day ever.

6. 'Gangnam Style' by Psy (3.68 billion)

While the world may have forgotten about K-pop rapper Psy, the impact of his Gangnam Style track continues to reverberate in the pop music landscape. In South Korea, Psy’s lyrics are viewed as a satirical takedown of the country’s glitterati. In the West, it’s looked upon as a novelty song. What elevates it, however, is a music video that’s a visual feast of vibrant colours and kooky characters. Gangnam Style didn't only provide a benchmark for music video production. It also became the Trojan horse for other K-pop acts to conquer the western music market.

7. 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 (3.22 billion)

Is it real or staged? Maroon 5 have been dogged by this question since releasing the video to their 2015 summer hit Sugar. But it's no bad thing, as it has kept people pressing play a few billion times.

The curiosity surrounds the premise of the video. Partly shot documentary-style, it follows Maroon 5 as they spend a day crashing a bunch of weddings. The newlyweds' reactions to one of the world’s biggest bands performing for their big day are priceless.

When The National quizzed singer Adam Levine about the video in 2015, he confirmed it was partly staged. "I do want to clear up something about the video,” he says. “Half of the weddings we crashed and the other half were set up. We did that to cover our bases and to make sure we had all the footage. I would say 65 per cent of the video was real. It was crazy and a lot of fun.”

8. 'Roar' by Katy Perry (3.11 billion)

It's a good thing this is a killer tune because the accompanying 2013 music video is more of a whimper than a roar. For such a heroic anthem about conquering self-doubt, it seems rather ludicrous for Perry to visually set it to what resembles a spoof of both Indiana Jones and Jumanji.

9. 'Hello' by Adele (2.67 billion)

This brooding video has achieved a couple of landmarks: it was the fastest to accrue one billion views, having garnered those in a mere 87 days, and it is credited as being the first music video produced in the widescreen Imax format. To match the song's heart-rending subject matter, the video is shot in a grim and Gothic style. The plot has Adele and her on-screen partner trying to salvage a broken bond.

10. 'Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)' by Shakira featuring Freshlyground: the official 2010 Fifa World Cup song (2.53 billion)

One of the great sporting anthems, Waka Waka was released as the official song for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Colombian singer Shakira captures the excitement and international flavour of the event with an infectious tune that mixes Latin rhythms and South African gospel vocals. The fact it has eclipsed the tournament 10 years on is a testament to its evergreen and universal appeal.

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Updated: July 6, 2020 12:35 PM

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