You might think viral clips reign supreme on YouTube -- the "Charlie bit my fingers" of the world -- and while those certainly spread like wildfire around the internet, it's actually music videos that rack up the most views.
Those earworm-y songs that were everywhere a few years ago? The ones you wish you could wipe from your memory forever? Those are the ones doing the best Scrooge McDuck impressions, swimming in millions upon millions upon millions of views.
In a nod to nostalgia and absurdity, let's revisit YouTube's current top-10 most-watched music videos, the members at the tippy top of the 1 Billion Club*, by treating them as though we've never seen or heard them before. But first, an important honorable mention...
"Wheels on the Bus"
Views: 1.81 billion
While this isn't technically a music videos, it has numbers so obscene it begs to be shared. This nursery rhyme compilation is evidence that lazy parents somewhere figured out YouTube can be a free 54-minute babysitter.
Now, here's the real top 10:
10. "Katy Perry - Roar (Official)"
Views: 1.85 billion
"Roar" deserves major style points -- it boasts lush colors; tells a quick story with a clear beginning, middle, and end; and incorporates deliciously cheesy special effects. Its one flaw: Katy reveals near the end that she's had access to a phone the whole time. Makes you think.
9. "Adele - Hello"
Views: 1.91 billion
What starts as a Verizon Wireless plug quickly turns into what could have been a pretty amazing Burlington Coat Factory PSA. "Warmth is everything." Don't be reckless like Adele's ex -- dress for the weather.
8. "Major Lazer - Lean On"
Views: 1.92 billion
The sets, background choreography, and cinematography here are all beautiful. But the true highlight? When singer-songwriter-slash-person-who-stands-on-fancy-chairs MØ bumps her noggin. D'oh!
7. "Enrique Iglesias - Bailando (Español) ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente De Zona"
Views: 1.96 billion
"Bailando" is great because it offers a few choice lessons: If you buy pants with a normal crotch, you won't have to run weird. If you buy a lot of hats, you won't have to wear the same one in every shot. And if you buy a soccer ball dance-off, you won't have to make people sit through a forgettable music video.
6. "Taylor Swift - Shake It Off"
Views: 1.97 billion
Man, this goes down as smooth as a Gap ad.
5. "Taylor Swift - Blank Space"
Views: 1.99 billion
What an intriguing short film about a couple monsters who don't know what to do with all their nice things! In summary: Taylor Swift and her boytoy, a professional dog-walker, buy a couple horses. But they hold the four-legged innocents captive IN THEIR CASTLE. They also enjoy playing golf. But they play golf WITH A FANCY SPORTS CAR. Then, they enjoy riding bikes. But they ride the bikes ALL OVER THEIR CASTLE. I repeat: This is a short film about a couple of MONSTERS. Viewer discretion advised.
4. "Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk"
Views: 2.26 billion
My favorite part is in the beginning, when Gray Suit Guy walks out of the pawn shop and finds Bruno Mars singing and doing a choreographed dance with friends. At first, Gray Suit Guy is curious, like, Hey, what's going on here? You guys dancing? I like to dance. Actually, I LOVE TO DANCE. Maybe I'll jump in here. But then Bruno Mars says, "Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent / Gotta kiss myself, I'm so pretty," and Gray Suit Guy, who probably just exchanged his Chucks for that dumb pair of brown dress shoes at the pawn shop, is like, Are you kidding me? Goodbye forever, Bruno. It's subtle.
Overall, this isn't the most exciting video. Other notable moments include showcasing a car that the Flintstones would smoke in a drag race. Also, sitting. But -- big but -- it's kind of impossible to make it through this entire thing without tapping your foot or bopping your head. At least once. We recommend chasing this with Alex Boye's send-up, which comes with dancing grannies and a mobility scooter, if you bopped more than once.
2. "Wiz Khalifa - See You Again ft. Charlie Puth [Official Video] Furious 7 Soundtrack"
Views: 2.51 billion
This Paul Walker tribute features an appropriate number of cars, nostalgic Brian O'Conner snippets, and shots of Drake Bell and Andy Samberg's long-lost love child playing piano outdoors. It is touching as hell. Have the tissue box handy, and consider dropping everything you have planned today so you can rewatch Brick Mansions and the entire Fast franchise as a proper show of respect. If you aren't choking up by the time Charlie Puth sings, "Let the light guide your way," while Paul, laughing and holding a beer, flashes across the screen, you are Miranda Priestly. You do not deserve this video.
1. "PSY - GANGNAM STYLE(강남스타일) M/V"
Views: 2.79 billion
I've tried several times to write something coherent about this T-Pain-endorsed piece of art. It is not easy. Instead, here's a quick list of some of the batshit stuff Psy does: He sunbathes, more or less, fully clothed. He dances for a bunch of horses. He makes two innocent women walk with him through a vortex of garbage and glitter. He rests his head on the shoulder of Sauna Man. He maybe kills two people with an explosion? He rides a carousel, while dancing. He crashes a yoga class.
He yells at a butt...
Why is this cheesy horse trot-filled video No. 1 on this list? And not just No. 1, but No. 1 by a long shot? Why does this thing, directed by Cho Soo-hyun, have almost 3 billion views? Maybe it has something to do with one of the things listed above. Or maybe it's because this isn't just a silly K-pop music video. As The Atlantic and countless others have dutifully pointed out over the years, "Gangnam Style" is a carefully crafted satire of something loosely analogous to South Korea's 1%. The song, and the visuals above, call out the country's -- specifically, the posh neighborhood of Seoul called Gangnam District -- unhealthy fetishization of materialism. It's a smart message, one not just applicable to South Korea.
Maybe that's why, to this day, it hasn't budged from the top slot as YouTube's most viewed video. As other more recent selects on this list -- Adele and T-Swift, we're looking at you -- have shown, it's possible for newer hits to rack up millions of views quickly. But there's something about "Gangnam Style" that just won't die. When I first started writing this post in September 2016, the video had 2.64 billion views. (Only, like, three of the views since then were mine.)
OK, OK, I get it -- you didn't come here for an outdated lecture. Back to the list: "Gangnam Style" also shows Psy getting his hair dried via pelvic thrust in an elevator. He does push-ups underneath Hyuna, who doesn't seem to mind and who did a duet version of this with him later. He dresses up as a chic Nigel Thornberry. He has a dance-off with someone -- who may or may not be Lauren Lapkus disguised as a pimp version of Todd from Characters -- dressed in all yellow. He arrives at a rave several hours too early. He's shown dancing with the coolest kid ever, ruining someone's bath, and dropping a deuce. He turns into a cartoon. It's all mostly insane and a little bit beautiful.
*The view counts above are estimates from March 2017. Totals and ranks will continue to change over time.
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