The Billion View Club: YouTube’s Most Watched Music Videos – Rolling Stone
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The Billion View Club: YouTube’s Most Watched Music Videos

From “Gangnam Style” to “Despacito”

Katy Perry, Wiz and Psy

Adam Bettcher/Getty; Paras Griffin/Getty; ChinaFotoPress/Getty

YouTube’s Billion View Club is an elite group, but membership is growing fast. For a decade, very few videos ever even approached the milestone – in fact, as of the start of June 2015, only two clips could boast a billion-plus views. Then, over the course of 2015 alone, over 10 new clips crossed the mark, and more are likely to follow suit shortly. While the Billion View Club is still an exclusive circle, let’s look back at the videos that will likely stand as monuments of our time.

Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee, “Despacito”

Puerto Rican heartthrobs Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee struck gold in summer 2017 with this sizzling reggaeton-pop ballad, which topped the charts in almost every continent. Their smash hit paid off tenfold in the United States, thanks to a remix featuring Justin Bieber, who made his Spanish-language debut with the song. Now at 4 billion views and counting, the “Despacito” video has become the most-watched YouTube video of all time.


Shakira, “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)”

For the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Shakira became the international soundtrack to the festivities. In the clip, she highlights players from the event as well as dance culture from the area as she sings the joyful hit.

eminem; rihanna

Eminem Featuring Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie”

Eminem and Rihanna powerfully tackled the topic of abusive relationships and domestic violence with their collaboration "Love the Way You Lie." Both had publicly and viciously displayed abusive relationships and brought it to light in the powerful, fiery clip for the single, starring Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan as a passionate, violent couple. 


Justin Bieber, “Sorry”

Surprisingly, Bieber's "Sorry" video hit it big even without the pop star in it. Instead, dancers from a pair of New Zealand crews took the lead. While wearing colorful outfits and matching sunglasses, the group of women danced to the dancehall-infused beat of the Skrillex and Bloodpop-produced, Number One single.

ellie goulding

Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do”

Broaching on the more romantic elements of Fifty Shades of Grey, Goulding goes grandiose with the Max Martin-assisted "Love Me Like You Do." In the clip, the singer dances around a gorgeous old mansion in between clips from the film.

maroon 5

Maroon 5, “Sugar”

As sweet as "Sugar" is, Maroon 5's video treatment for it is nearly cavity-inducing with the band driving around and elaborately crashing weddings by playing mini-sets for the happy couples.


Adele, “Hello”

Adele's "Hello" was 2015's most highly-anticipated single. The booming singer had taken a few years off following her massive sophomore album 21 and her Oscar win for the song "Skyfall," and "Hello" was a perfectly cinematic return. The sepia-toned video had the singer returning to an empty house and reflecting on a past relationship.

ed sheeran

Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”

Sheeran became a leading man with "Thinking Out Loud," a song that won a Song of the Year Grammy Award for the singer-songwriter. In the romantic video, he dances around an empty ballroom with So You Think You Can Dance contestant Brittany Cherry.


Justin Bieber, “What Do You Mean?”

After several controversies and a brief break from music, Bieber needed a boost to bring him back to the pop charts. After the immense success of his Jack Ü collaboration "Where Are Ü Now?" he continued to ask more questions and drop the tropical, breezy jam "What Do You Mean?" The single ended up being his first Number One Single and came with a neon-noir video featuring a John Leguizamo cameo.


Passenger, “Let Her Go”

Mike Rosenberg, a.k.a. Passenger, had a breakthrough hit with "Let It Go." The 2012 song ended up being the breakthrough needed for him to relaunch Passenger as a solo act after the band of the same name broke up. Just like the song itself, the video keeps it simple, showing the singer-songwriter on a stage performing to a rapt crowd.

wiz, katy perry and psy

Psy, “Gangnam Style”

Psy's K-pop hit stands as the first-ever video to reach a billion views and it did so at a record-breaking pace of 160 days. Since 2012, the track has only gotten bigger and maintains its crown of being the most-viewed video on YouTube of all time with over two billion views. One of the only two non-English language songs to claim a spot in the Billion View Club, "Gangnam Style" quickly became a cultural and international phenomenon that turned Psy into a superstar. The success of the track also helped elevate his follow-up single "Gentleman," which is in the Top 20 most-viewed YouTube videos of all time.

wiz, katy perry and psy

Justin Bieber Featuring Ludacris, “Baby”

Justin Bieber's prepubescent love song "Baby" held YouTube's top spot for two years until Psy's "Gangnam Style" became an international phenomenon. The 2010 hit featuring Ludacris became the second video to reach a billion views on YouTube and has remained in second place since topping that mark in 2014. In "Baby," a then-15-year-old Bieber flirts and fumbles at a bowling alley with friends, including Drake, Lil Twist and Tinashe, amongst the pre-teen crew. 

wiz, katy perry and psy

Katy Perry, “Roar”

Alongside Taylor Swift, Katy Perry is one of the only two artists to have multiple entries in the Billion View Club — and was also the first to get there. Also like Swift, both of Perry's entrees come from the same album. In the clip for the empowering lead single off 2013's Prism, the pop star shows off both her acting and survival skills as she learns to make it on her own after crashing in a jungle. By the end of the campy video for "Roar," Perry has fully channeled Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. The Dr. Luke and Max Martin-assisted song went to Number One on its own.

wiz, katy perry and psy

Enrique Iglesias Featuring Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, “Bailando”

Enrique Iglesias released two videos for his single "Bailando" — in Spanish and Spanglish — but it was the Spanish one that rose to the top and became the second non-English video to reach a billion views (following up Psy's massive "Gangnam Style"). According to YouTube Music Insights, one-third of the views on the warm and catchy 2014 clip — which features Iglesias, Gente de Zona and Descemer Bueno traveling through scenes of flamenco dancers and soccer players — come from Mexico, Colombia and Argentina alone. 

wiz, katy perry and psy

Katy Perry Featuring Juicy J, “Dark Horse”

Katy Perry's foray into trap-pop was accompanied by an Egypt-themed video that may be one of the singer's most controversial clips. Not only were there accusations of cultural appropriation due to the Egyptian imagery, but Muslim viewers created a petition to have the video taken down due to the blasphemous action of Perry's character turning a pendant bearing the word "Allah" in Arabic to dust. The pendant scene has since been edited, and the controversies did little to slow down Perry from becoming the first female artist to reach a billion views. 

wiz, katy perry and psy

Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”

Meghan Trainor's doo-wop-inspired tune"All About That Bass" not only gave the singer a Number One hit but also helped make her the only artist to have their debut single reach a billion views on YouTube. In the colorful clip for the body positivity chart-topper, Trainor and her pristinely dressed, hair bow-wearing crew booty bump alongside Vine-famous dancer Sione Marschino — who helped the clip spread across the web.

wiz, katy perry and psy

Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”

Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are the only two artists who have more more than one video to reach a billion views. "Shake It Off" was the first single off Swift's total pop crossover album 1989, and the fun, free-spirited video shows Swift testing out all kinds of dance moves — from ballet to twerking — in her effort to just shake, shake, shake, shake it off. 

wiz, katy perry and psy

Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' throwback jam was accompanied by a nostalgic video that is just as charming as the song itself, so it's little surprise that the clip has cracked the billion-view mark on the YouTube. On the charts, "Uptown Funk" spent a lengthy 31 weeks in the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100, being beaten by just one week by LeAnn Rimes, who set the record for the longest stay in 1997 with "How Do I Live."

wiz, katy perry and psy

Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”

"Bad Blood" may have won Video of the Year at the 2015 MTV VMAs, but it's "Blank Space" that has broken into the Top 3 most-viewed YouTube videos. In the clip, Swift wins big with self-parody, making fun of the "crazy girlfriend" label that's often applied to her due to the personal nature of her lyrics. She gives her all while destroying her lover's cars and paintings before ominously stabbing a blood-filled, heart-shaped cake. The video was such an adventure that it came with an interactive app that let fans explore the castle where it's set.

wiz, katy perry and psy

Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth, “See You Again”

Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s banger ballad “See You Again” recently brought the number of videos to reach a billion views to 10, and it became the second-fastest clip to reach that mark (after “Gangnam Style”). In July 2017, it surpassed “Gangnam Style” in total YouTube views, breaking Psy’s nearly five-year streak. The emotional theme song for the seventh installment of the Fast & the Furious franchise and a tribute to its fallen star, the late Paul Walker, took only 184 days to become one of the most viewed videos on the video streaming site. But this isn’t the first milestone that Khalifa and Puth’s Number One hit has crossed: “See You Again” became the most streamed song on Spotify within the first 24 hours of its release.


OneRepublic, “Counting Stars”

When Ryan Tedder isn't writing big pop hits for artists like Taylor Swift, One Direction and Adele, he's creating dance-rock singles that are just as massive for his band OneRepublic. "Counting Stars" proved to be one of the band's biggest singles, and the video reached the Billion View Club in early 2016. In the surreal clip, the band is playing on one floor while a church congregation is having a service above.


Sia, “Chandelier”

"Chandelier" helped re-launch Sia as not just a singer-songwriter but a pop diva. The creative clip for her powerful, catchy single gave the Australian writer behind hits for artists like Beyoncé and Kylie Minogue an added boost. In the clip, which achieved billion-view status in November 2015, the singer lets then-12-year-old Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler take center-stage, dancing through a dirty apartment while wearing a Sia wig.


LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock, “Party Rock Anthem”

Right before 2015 winded down, LMFAO's 2011 hit "Party Rock Anthem" not only reached a billion views but also proved that even four years later, everyone is still part rocking. The video shows the pair of Redfoo and Sky Blu waking from a coma induced by hard they had previously party rocked. They land in a city that's been destroyed by too much daily shuffling.

major lazer

Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring MØ, “Lean On”

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 achieving a billion views in early 2016. 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. 

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