This year saw the return of the music video as an event, thanks to platforms like Vine, Instagram and, of course, YouTube. The last still reigned supreme as the place to visit for the visual accompaniment to the day's hit songs. There, clips from some of today's biggest artists – including Adele, Ellie Goulding and Fifth Harmony – brought in massive numbers as they raked in close to a billion views — and, for one, over a billion — in less than 12 months. Here are 10 of the most-watched music videos on YouTube.
Silentó launched one of this year's most unstoppable dance crazes as he combined two popular moves — the Whip and the Nae Nae — into one conveniently catchy song. The young rapper not only dominated Vine, but he also took over YouTube as well, creating an official clip worthy of all the viral DIY homages to his song. Released in June, the video captures the zeitgeist around Silentó's own song, showcasing a few homemade dance clips and having the rapper perform in a gym where a variety of people are brought together by the infectious track.
It wouldn't be surprising if Adele's sepia-toned comeback clip hit a billion views early next year given how quickly it's reached over 600 million since its release in late October. The first single off 25 had been highly anticipated for some time, and both the song and its cinematic, emotional visuals delivered. In the video, Adele reminisces about a past love as she attempts to reach out to him once more, and the yearning is as clear through her acting as it is through her voice.
Girl group Fifth Harmony had a major breakthrough with the simple, horn-driven single "Worth It" off their debut album Reflection. The irresistible club banger helped the former X-Factor contestants mature past older singles like "Miss Movin' On" and show that they can belt with serious pipes as well as get a catchy chorus stuck in your head. For the video, the quintet showed off some of their choreography while taking on a business-casual look.
The Weeknd sang on Sia's anthemic single "Elastic Heart"and Diplo produced it, but that star power is not what helped push its video to one of the year's most-viewed clips. It was, instead, the special guest who joined the elusive singer's frequent dance stand-in Maddie Ziegler in the gritty, haunting clip: Shia LaBeouf. The pair played "warring 'Sia' states," as the singer explained, but their interplay led many to accuse the clip of pedophilia, making it one of the year's most controversial music videos. "My intention was to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody," the singer wrote in a statement. A month later, LaBeouf made a rare awards show appearance to introduce Sia's performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards, reading aloud a letter written by her husband.
Nicki Minaj didn't need an EDM hit to boost her chart domination over the last two years, but her collaboration with David Guetta and Afrojack didn't hurt the star either. The desert-set clip for "Hey Mama" features a holographic, larger-than-life version of Minaj, who fuses her singing and rapping talents together on the bouncy, urgent pop track.
No video this year had as much build-up as Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" clip, and the singer delivered by not only including a star-studded roster of her friends and peers but also premiering a now Grammy-nominated remix by Kendrick Lamar. The Sin City–inspired visuals, directed by Joseph Kahn, features cameos by Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba, Karlie Kloss and even more big names as a murderous, vengeful troupe. The clip won Video of the Year and Best Collaboration at the MTV Video Music Awards.
The rhythmic moombahton song has been inescapable all year and was named by Spotify the most-streamed track of all time. The earworm of an EDM single also reached high marks in YouTube play counts with the video rapidly moving towards 900 million views. In the clip, DJ trio Major Lazer is seen dancing across India alongside their guest collaborators DJ Snake and MØ. The track and clip turned out to be a big breakthrough for Major Lazer, becoming the group's highest-charting single to date.
Fifty Shades of Grey's soundtrack elicited two hit singles this year: the Weeknd's sexy "Earned It" and Ellie Goulding's more romantic "Love Me Like You Do." The latter's video, which racked up nearly one billion views this year, features clips from the film and scenes of Goulding and a partner dancing in a ballroom. The wistful, breezy song became a huge hit for the singer — reaching Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100 — and previewed her latest album, Delirium. "Love Me Like You Do" has also earned two Grammy nominations, for Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media, the latter alongside "Earned It."
Maroon 5 went for extra-sweet with their "Sugar" video, which features the band traveling across Los Angeles and crashing weddings. At each ceremony, the group was unveiled on a makeshift stage hidden by a curtain before they performed the infectious, disco-tinged single off their 2014 album V. The single itself has been nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award in the category of Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's tribute to Paul Walker and contribution to the Furious 7 soundtrack dominated 2015, reaching one billion views in just 184 days, the quickest a music video topped that mark. The clip features footage from the movie alongside shots of the rapper and singer performing their parts near cars from the film and along a highway. The collaborative cut also broke a record on Spotify, becoming the most-streamed song on the platform in less than 24 hours, and "See You Again" capped off the year with a pair of Grammy nominations for Song of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.