There’s one video you wouldn’t expect on the list.
In a truly shocking amount of time, Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” has become the most-viewed YouTube video of all time. The international hit and undisputed song of the summer passed “See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s ode to the Fast and the Furious, on Aug. 4, and it’s since become the first video to shatter 3 billion views. It’s currently at 4.21 billion views—that’s 1 billion views more than any other video in YouTube history.
Psy’s “Gangnam Style” enjoyed a five-year reign atop YouTube’s charts, but it was dethroned in June. The list of the top 25 most-viewed YouTube videos of all time is changing constantly, but no video has shown the velocity we’ve seen from “Despacito”—and it won’t let up anytime soon.
YouTube tends to be perceived as the domain of insipid vloggers, pranks gone awry, and TV clips. But the truth is, the most popular videos on the site are overwhelmingly music videos.
A look at the top 25 most-viewed YouTube videos reveals that nearly all of them are recent music videos. In fact, only two don’t fit that mold: one is a clip from a Russian children’s show and the other is an hour-long compilation of classic children’s songs. Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” (the second video to surpass 1 billion views after “Gangnam Style”) is the oldest video in the Top 25, having debuted in February 2010. Nearly half of the Top 25 videos are less than three years old. Seven videos from 2015 and nine from 2014 populate the list. Three videos from 2016 made the cut: “Work From Home” by Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla Sign, “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna, and “Closer” by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey.
Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” featuring Daddy Yankee was the first video from 2017 to crack the Top 25 list. (The original video from Fonsi is not to be confused with Bieber’s popular remix, which came out in April.) But Bieber still reigns supreme with three of the Top 25 spots, trailed by Taylor Swift and Katy Perry both holding two top positions, and Ed Sheeran, whose “Shape of You” is still churning out views.
One major component in the success of these videos is Vevo, YouTube’s music video partner, a joint venture between some of the top record companies: Universal Music, Sony Music, Google, and Abu Dhabi Media. Vevo hosts and distributes music videos on its own platform and other sites, with ad revenue shared between Google and Vevo. That extra promotional push is more than most YouTube videos receive, but it’s a necessary function for recording artists to make money. Take some time to click through this list and enjoy the music (plus one Russian cartoon).
The top 10 most-viewed YouTube videos of all time
1) “Despacito” — Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee
Will there ever be another song as popular as “Despacito” on YouTube? It’s hard to say. We’ve never seen anything like it. It’s the undisputed hit of 2017 and proved that international audiences can make a huge impact on YouTube and in U.S. markets.
Views: 4.45 billion
Uploaded: January 2017
2) “See You Again” — Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
Wiz Khalifa’s Furious 7 anthem has had a surprisingly long shelf life, in part because the video pays tribute to the late Paul Walker.
Views: 3.25 billion
Uploaded: April 2015
When “See You Again” eclipsed Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in July 2017, it was quickly noticed.
3) “Gangnam Style” — Psy
Remember “Gangnam Style”? Honestly, how could you forget? This viral hit spawned a thousand parodies and a silly dance craze that swept the world—all while providing from subtle class commentary.
Views: 3 billion
Uploaded: July 2012
4) “Sorry” — Justin Bieber
No one dominates YouTube’s charts quite like Justin Bieber. Part of that is because he delivers major pop hits, but he also has a loyal following from his earliest days on the platform.
Views: 2.84 billion
Uploaded: October 2015
5) “Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
You know a song is huge when you see it performed during a Super Bowl halftime appearance. This anthem helped cement Bruno Mars as a household name.
Views: 2.79 billion
Uploaded: November 2014
6) “Shape of You”— Ed Sheeran
Since it’s release in June 2017, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” has quietly made its way into the top 10 YouTube videos of all time, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Views: 2.81 billion
Uploaded: June 2017
7) “Masha and the Bear” — Get Movies
Here’s the one video on this list of YouTube’s most popular videos that you probably haven’t seen. Masha and the Bear is a Russian animated children’s show that’s been translated to 25 languages and can now be watched on Netflix. What’s truly incredible about this video is that it’s not even an original—it’s an unauthorized copy.
Views: 2.66 billion
Uploaded: January 2012
8) “Shake It Off” — Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” was an instant hit on YouTube, despite causing some controversy over its twerking scenes.
Views: 2.45 billion views
Uploaded: August 2014
9) “Bailando” — Enrique Iglesias ft. Descemar Bueno and Gente De Zona
Before “Despacito,” there was “Bailando,” Enrique Iglesias sexy hit with Descemar Bueno and Gente de Zona, which paved the way Latin artists on YouTube.
Views: 2.43 billion
Uploaded: April 2014
10) “Sugar” — Maroon 5
Maroon 5’s video for “Sugar,” the third single off the band’s 2014 album V, was inspired in part by the 2005 rom-com Wedding Crashers. The song peaked at no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it continues to gain traction on YouTube.
Views: 2.43 billion
Uploaded: January 2015
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Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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