Videos having 1 billion views doesn’t necessarily mean 1 billion discrete people have watched the video. If you factor in all the grown ups who don’t care, the people too young to be interested, the people without access to internet (let alone wi-fi) and the people who have never even heard of some of these artists, you aren’t really left with all that many people. I personally must have seen the “Blank Space video” at least 25 times, and I don’t even consider myself a die-hard Taylor Swift fan. I just really like the song. Imagine how many times people who REALLY like Taylor Swift must’ve watched it. 100? 200? 1,000?
I believe YouTube streams are the “box office earnings” of the future. People aren’t purchasing songs anymore. It would be ludicrous to even suggest that someone go out and buy an album (except for Adele‘s 25, a weird aberration that somehow got people back into fyi or Barnes and Noble or wherever music is sold). You can see the number of streams on Spotify (and, doubtlessly, it’s calculated into the Nielsen “streaming” rating, along with YouTube and Apple Music, among others), but YouTube is still the one that represents a song’s popularity to the national consciousness.
To give you an example: in researching this article, I stumbled across a song, “Princess of China”, by Coldplay featuring Rihanna. I had never heard of it, but it had over 100M views on YouTube.” How could a song be so popular, and yet unknown to me?” Its YouTube views represented its popularity.
With that all said, let’s jump right in to the 18 mega-hits with over 1 BILLION views on Vevo.
18. Love The Way You Lie – Eminem & Rihanna
Date added: August, 2010
Views: 1.016 billion
Remember when this track was released? It was so controversial. Rihanna had just been assaulted by Chris Brown, who by and by revealed himself to be a violent criminal. But still, her video showed Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan in a love-hate relationship, where to quote Grace Adler, “they fight like cats and make up like dogs”. But despite all this controversy, this song still came out in August of 2010, or nearly 6 years ago. Who would’ve thought it would be such a slow gainer? I guess it did go number 1, but so have many songs since, and few have exited the stratosphere like this one.
17. Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) – Shakira
Date added: June, 2010
Views: 1.017 billion
Released for the 2010 World Cup, this song was a total rump shaker. Who among us did not secretly bust a move to the lyrics: “Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and back in the saddle”. It’s great. It also has, more than most of these songs (we’ll get to it) international appeal. The entire point of the World Cup is that it’s worldly. I even think Shakira was picked because she has such transnational appeal: she’s Columbian and Lebanese, singing in English and Spanish. Plus, rhythm has no language, and Shakira’s music is more rhythmic than probably anyone else’s.
16. Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO feat. Goon Rock and Lauren Bennett
Date added: March, 2011
Views: 1.029 billion
This track just about defined 2011. It was everywhere. You couldn’t walk into a store without hearing this song buzzing in the background. Despite that, it was only #1 for six weeks (to give you an idea of a SERIOUS reign, “Uptown Funk” was on top for fourteen full weeks, or 2.33 times as long). And it wasn’t even dethroned by another pop juggernaut, the way “Funk” was dethroned by “See You Again”. Katy Perry‘s “Last Friday Night” was the one to knock it out of the top spot. Songs since “Party Rock Anthem” have been on the top of the charts for over six weeks. “We Found Love”, shortly after, was there for eight weeks and it only has some 500 million views on YouTube.
15. “Sugar” – Maroon 5
Date added: January, 2015
Views: 1.054 billion
It is my contention that over 1 billion people tuned in to see this video only because of Adam Levine in a tuxedo and sunglasses. He really is a hunk, isn’t he? Even though this video was a rip off of Katy Perry’s “Birthday” video (she infiltrates various parties in disguise, eventually revealing herself as the pop superstar), they executed the premise with more panache (plus one of the America’s Next Top Model girls was one of the brides). And it must be said that this song is more catchy than Katy Perry’s tongue in cheek birthday song (“I’m gonna break out the big balloons” aka breasts). Obviously, a lot of people agree with me, because this is one of the few, although growing number of, videos with over a billion views.
14. “Lean On” – Major Lazer and DJ Snake feat. MØ
Date added: March 22, 2015
Views: 1.123 billion
Something I always think is interesting is when videos have a billion views and then some, and the “then some” is more than many other songs get. This applies to entry #14 on this list (beginning here and continuing from here on out). This song has 1.123 billion views. The views it has PAST 1 billion exceed ALL the views on, for instance, Nick Jonas‘s #7 peaking song “Jealous”. It’s almost like when a person has $200 million, you think there can’t possibly be any meaningful difference between their fortune and someone’s who has $10 billion. But the second person, the billionaire, is going to look back at the multi-millionaire and think: “Poor sucker. His yacht isn’t made of solid gold. I don’t know how he lives.” Whatever. At least Nick Jonas is like the biggest sex-symbol of our generation.
13. Chandelier – Sia
Date added: May, 2014
Views: 1.133 billion
Until Chandelier (which, fun story, peaked on Billboard at number EIGHT), Sia hadn’t really had a big hit. She’d had several albums, including one that was sold at Starbucks, but she wasn’t really a pop powerhouse the way she’s been since she covered her face at that award show. Unfortunately, she hasn’t really been that pop star since. Her follow-up single, “Elastic Heart” (where Shia LaBeouf dances with a little girl in a cage) only (term used winkingly) has 550 million views on YouTube. But the follow up to that, “Big Girls Cry”, didn’t even crack 100 million. The album these songs come from, 1000 Forms of Fear, is splendid, but seemingly doesn’t have the massive popular appeal that her wailing ode to drunkenness did.
12. Counting Stars – OneRepublic
Date added: May 2013
Views: 1.138 billion
Justin Bieber‘s last 3 singles have dinged the bell in the “Show Your Strength!” carnival hammer slam that is the Billboard Hot 100 (in other words: they’ve gone #1). And yet he only has 1 song with a billion views (and WAIT til you hear what it is!) On the other hand, you have OneRepublic, a band which has never had a single #1 song, despite obvious worldwide appeal (who doesn’t know that lately, Ryan Tedder has been losing sleep dreaming about the things that they could’ve been?) The closest they’ve ever come is this very song, “Counting Stars” which went to #2 back in 2014. We predict a forthcoming #1, it’s bound to happen with their star burning so bright, but it has yet to happen.
11. Hello – Adele
Date added: October, 2015
Views: 1.153 billion
Despite being only #11 on this list (which already isn’t such a terrible achievement), Adele’s “Hello” is also the fastest video to have ever hit 1 billion views on YouTube (among six bajillion other records broken by that album). It was released on October 22nd, 2015 (or 2 October 2015, to put it like Adele would). Within 5 days, it had reached 100 million views on YouTube. It was bound to continue along that path, its widespread popularity only expanding during its 10 weeks at #1. After just two months, on January 18th, 2016, the song broke into 1 billion view territory, where the views continued to accrue. It now has 1.153, which could presumably translate into another billion, although its growth will slow now that people have tired of it.
10. Roar – Katy Perry
Date added: September, 2013
Views: 1.255 billion
Can you believe that “Roar” already came out almost three years ago? Time moves so quickly, it’s basically ROARING past. No but seriously: Katy Perry’s song about self-confidence is one of only eighteen songs (seventeen of which are in English) to have gotten over a billion views. It’s not all too surprising that the Californian singer would be on this list. She’s had countless #1s, a ton of followers across social media, she performed at the Super Bowl, and she was recently named as the highest-earning female solo artist of the year by Forbes magazine (a spot unbelievably not occupied by Taylor Swift, who really owned 2015). Worry not, Swifties. Taylor is forthcoming on this list!
9. “All About That Bass” – Meghan Trainor
Date added: June, 2014.
Views: 1.259 billion
Meghan Trainor is doing everything that she can to not be a one hit wonder. She made “Lips Are Moving” (which went to #4, higher than anything Selena Gomez has ever done despite having the second most followers on Instagram after Taylor Swift). She recorded “Marvin Gaye” with Charlie Puth, that total flop of a song. She’s now back on the charts with John Legend on “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”. The thing about Meghan Trainor is that she’s a medium talent. She has blonde hair and she can sing… big whoop. Blue-eyed girls singing doo-wop is so tired that it fell asleep on the metro and missed its stop. That all said: the one hit that she DID have is undeniable, and its billion, two-hundred and sixty million views on YouTube attest to that.
8. Dark Horse – Katy Perry feat. Juicy J
Date added: February, 2014
Views: 1.287 billion
As far as I’m concerned, this video created a dance SENSATION. When Katy Perry says: “It’s in the palm of your hand now, baby”, she flickers her palm over her face in the most alluring possible way. Whenever I watch this video, and it’s often, I just skip straight to that, jumping over the whole mish-mash misunderstanding of what Ancient Egypt was really like “a crazy long time ago”. Being so catchy, it makes sense that this song would have over a billion views. What makes less sense is that the follow up single, “This Is How We Do”, which peaked at number 24, has almost 500 million views. I suppose it’s a comment on Katy Perry’s immense international fame, which I believe exceeds any other pop star’s, especially in Asia.
7. Bailando – Enrique Iglesias feat. Descember Bueno and Gente de Zona
Date added: April, 2014
There are four versions of this song on YouTube: the one with over a billion views, the English version, which features Sean Paul and has 175 million views, the Portuguese version, and then another Spanish version which includes another artist. If you add up all those views, it pushes the view count of the actual song (the melody, technically) to 1.5 billion. Enrique Igelsias, or whoever is managing him, was clever to suggest they make several versions of this song. With all those versions, they could sell it to markets the world over. (They should have made a West-African French version, the fastest growing language in the world). Unsurprisingly, the Spanish version has the most views, it being the world’s second most spoken language – the simple lyrics lost on no one who doesn’t speak it.
6. Baby – Justin Bieber feat. Ludacris
Date added: February 2010
Views: 1.303 billion
Earlier, I mentioned that Justin Bieber’s last three singles have gone number 1. Count ’em: “What Do U Mean?”, “Sorry”, and “Love Yourself” all topped the charts, albeit for varying lengths. But the only single by the young, now blond, Canadian to have reached 1 billion (as of right now — this probably won’t be true for very long) is his 2010 smash hit “Baby” featuring Ludacris. It’s so odd to look at it: he dances with backup dancers in the video, not yet too cool to just stand there and pose. “Sorry” has 800M+ views on YouTube, so check back in a week and we might have to change this list to 19 songs…
5. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
Date added: August, 2014
Views: 1.324 billion
Anyone who’s a big fan of Taylor Swift will be pleased to discover that she has two songs on this list. And anyone who was angry when they found out the story behind “Bad Blood” (Katy Perry stole her backup dancers) will be happy to realize that they outrank her songs by a considerable berth. Taylor Swift’s infectious single has 1.324 billion on YouTube, a true testament to its invigorating power. But for how much faster it can make you run on the treadmill, it couldn’t make Taylor Swift jump from her “1989” podium at the 2014 VMAs. When she climbed up the stairs and looked down at the expectant dancers, arms outstretched to catch her, she was like: “Oh, no. Not gonna happen.” And ran back the way she came.
4. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
Date added: November, 2014
Views: 1.361 billion
Fun fact: Mark Ronson, the producer of this song, is the brother of Samantha Ronson, Lindsay Lohan‘s lesbian lover from back in her trainwreck days! Now onto the music.
I think it’s almost an axiom at this point that any song performed at the Superbowl will garner 1 billion views on YouTube. I’m right on the fringe of this accomplishment even being noteworthy. Despite being unlisted on YouTube (it even comes with a “please be considerate when sharing this video” warning ), Beyonce’s “Formation” will waste no time breaking this sound barrier, what with its twang trap beat and goosebumpy lyrics. “Funk” had already gotten a billion views by the time Bruno Mars took to the stage in Levi’s Stadium, but if he had performed a new single, you could bet it would zoom up in views.
3. See You Again – Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth
Date added: April, 2015
Views: 1.444 billion views
I’ve already said this one million times, but this song is manipulative and greedy. Paul Walker DIED and they were like: “LET’S WRITE A SUPERSAD MEGA HIT AND LAUNCH THIS NEW BOY CHARLIE PUTH IN STARDOM WITH IT!” Like how is everyone on board with this? Whatever, I guess people really are because it’s the 3rd most viewed video on YouTube right behind ____ and ___ (aha — as if). As of today, it has 1.443 billion views, making it one of the most-viewed videos in the shortest amount of time (it passed “Uptown Funk”, which it knocked out of the #1 spot after 14 weeks, giving it essentially three and a half months less time to get more views). I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful song but it really is profiting off of someone’s death.
2. Blank Space – Taylor Swift
Date added: November, 2014
Taylor Swift has got a lonely Starbucks lover. Just kidding, she’s really saying: “Got a long list of ex-lovers”. But it does sound like she’s twitterpated with a caffeinated emo-boy. Despite the hilarious mis-hear, Swift managed to rack up almost 1.5 billion views on her catchy track. Seems like she really waited until the perfect moment to make the leap over into proper pop music (for anyone who thought she was pop all along, go and listen to her old stuff. Even “22” is SO twangy and country-rock compared to anything off of this album). It’s entirely possible, if not entirely probable, that this song will continue riding its momentum past the 2 billion view mark, which it has lowkey gotten two views closer to during the composition of this article. Heh heh.
1. “Gangnam Style” – Psy
Date added: July 2012
Much like James Cameron‘s Avatar made like twice as much money at the box office as the next highest-grossing film of all time, Psy‘s “Gangnam Style” has literally over a BILLION more views than Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”. If you thought that the “Lean On”/ “Jealous” comparison was meaningful, think about that. Essentially, “Gangnam Style” has 1000 million more views than “Blank Space”. That sounds like the parodic number a child uses to explain to a mother how long she’s been detained at a boring dinner party. (“Come on mom, let’s go! We’ve been here for a thousand million hours!” – “You idiotic little brat, a thousand million is a billion!” — the mom’s had a little too much to drink…)