You might think viral clips rule YouTube — the “Keyboard Cats” and “Charlie bit my fingers” of the world. Sure, they spread across the web like wildfire, dominating your feeds and hijacking your attention.
But earworm-y pop songs? Those hits you end up wanting to wipe from your memory forever? Their visuals are the real Scrooge McDucks of the site, gleefully swimming in millions upon millions upon millions of Vevo views. In fact, Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” long-reigning king until recently, became so pervasive in 2014 it forced YouTube to rewrite the code for its play counter.
Now the site boasts an expanded metric for chronic popularity and an ever-changing batch of insanely popular music vids. Read on as we (re-)watch the current top 15*::::
10. “Katy Perry – Roar (Official)”
Views: 2.44 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. “Enrique Iglesias – Bailando (Español) ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente De Zona”
Views: 2.48 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 something that was otherwise forgettable.
8. “Taylor Swift – Shake It Off”
Views: 2.52 billion
Man, this goes down as smooth as a Gap ad.
7. “Maroon 5 – Sugar”
Views: 2.53 billion
Adam Levine and his henchmen (kinda) terrorize as many weddings in LA as they can. Because this is a band that insists on making us all say the same thing as the woman at 3:20.
6. “Justin Bieber – Sorry (PURPOSE : The Movement)”
Views: 2.90 billion
Props to the ladies of ReQuest and the Royal Family — these New Zealanders slay. No need for any Bieberflips here.
5. “Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk”
Views: 2.98 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 casual dance with his friends. At first, Gray Suit Guy is curious, like, Hey, 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? It’s a quick, subtle crisis, but a good one.
Overall, this isn’t the most exciting vid. Other notable moments include showcasing a car that the Flintstones would smoke in a drag race. Also, sitting. Just in general. 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.
4. “PSY – GANGNAM STYLE(강남스타일) M/V”
Views: 3.12 billion
This T-Pain-endorsed piece of art is close to impossible to summarize, so instead, here’s a quick list of the batshit stuff you’ll see Psy do: He sunbathes, more or less, fully clothed. He dances for a bunch of horses. He makes two women walk with him through a garbage tornado. He rests his head on the shoulder of Sauna Man. He makes two people explode. He rides a carousel. While dancing. He crashes a yoga class. And he yells at a butt…?
3. “Ed Sheeran – Shape of You [Official Video]”
Views: 3.36 billion
Punch! Punch, punch. Punch! Punch, punch. Punch! Punch, punch. Punch! Punch, punch. Before Ed Sheeran was a Game of Thrones guy, he got to live out every boxer’s secret fantasy. That is, he found his soulmate, did a Rocky impression, and got his ass beat by a sumo wrestler. Good video.
2. “Wiz Khalifa – See You Again ft. Charlie Puth [Official Video] Furious 7 Soundtrack”
Views: 3.45 billion
This Paul Walker tribute, which briefly held the top spot, features an appropriate number of cars and nostalgic Brian O’Conner snippets. In other words, 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 Drake Bell and Andy Samberg’s long-lost love child 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.
1. “Luis Fonsi – Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee”
Views: 4.92 billion
Upon its January 2017 arrival, Fonsi’s dance-inducing song quickly began breaking Vevo records, with Billboard pointing to the increasing popularity of streaming, especially in Latin America, as a major eyeball driver. It was simply bound to be king. In less than seven months, “Despacito” broke the 3 billion mark, a feat that took the old viral titan “Gangnam Style” seemingly forever to accomplish by comparison. In the process, “Despacito” showed off a number of arresting visual wonders that still have the power to make you say, Whoa!, today, including beautiful waves, colorful buildings, and the fact that Daddy Yankee stopped aging after “Gasolina.”