Ever since Psy’s “Gagnam Style” broke the sound barrier by getting a billion views on YouTube (and, recently, 2 billion), it has been the priority of pop stars to get that many hits on their songs as well. Some stall far before the 1 billion mark (“Pretty Girls” by Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea didn’t even break 50 million), some pass it (“Baby” by Justin Bieber, for example). Others almost get there, but just need that final thrust.
It’s an interesting exercise, looking at the number of views that a song gets. Sometimes, it’s unexpected songs that get the most views, ones that perhaps did not chart all that high in the United States but became international smash hits. Some are easier to anticipate, given the universal appeal of their singer and their domestic success. Either way, it’s a means of seeing who the most acclaimed singers in the world are.
As a final note, only Vevo videos have been counted in this list, not because other channels have less views or their videos aren’t as good, but because they are the most logically comparable. Here’s a list of the 12 Vevo videos that will next reach 1 billion views.
12 Wrecking Ball - 781 million
#TBT to when Miley Cyrus posed nude except for a pair of Dr. Martens on a wrecking ball then rolled around on a pile of rubble. “Wrecking Ball” was a hilariously meta name for the song which smashed the record for most views in 24 hours, previously held by One Direction’s “Best Song Ever.”
That number of views continued to increase long after the song fell from the #1 spot on the Billboard. Now it stands at some 781 million views, not quite as close as the rest of the videos on this list to that sexy billion, but still within reasonable vaulting distance.
11 Chandelier - 804 million
One of the most innovative videos in recent memory, Sia’s “Chandelier” is next up. The video, which features Dance Moms’ Maddie Ziegler, shows a little girl dressed in a sullied, skin-colored leotard and a blond wig as she dances through an abandoned house.
The wig has become so iconic, from the 804 million views on “Chandelier” and from two other videos (“Elastic Heart” and “Big Girls Cry”) where she wears it, too, that Maddie Ziegler, in an episode of Dance Moms, says that celebrities at the Grammy’s only recognized her once she had it on.
The routine in the video has been parodied by plenty of other media figures, including Jimmy Kimmel (alongside the elusive Sia) and Jim Carrey with Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live, meaning that it’s so popular it’ll soon get to 1 billion.
10 Uptown Funk - 818 million
“Uptown Funk,” the #1 song for 14 weeks, was one of the biggest hits in Billboard history. Although there are a few other songs in the 14-week cohort, it’s still runner-up for longest reign ever on the Billboard Top 40. It would therefore make sense that it would get many, many views on its Vevo video, and indeed it does at 818 million.
At the rate the song is going, no longer in the top 10 as of only last week, it will probably break the 1 billion views mark sometime this year. Granted, there is some buzz on the internet about people being terminally sick of it (14 weeks at #1 and no one can really blame them), but this juggernaut of a pop song won’t stop ‘til a bil.
9 On The Floor - 843 million
This is not a new song, nor is it a #1 song. It only reached the #3 spot on the Billboard top 40. And yet, with the help of markets across the ocean, “On The Floor” managed to rack up 843 million views on YouTube.
Despite being in English and having no Spanish edition, this JLo and Pitbull track performed extremely well in Europe. It’s unusual because Vevo views were not as much of a consideration back then as they are today, with the Billboard calculation having only accounted for YouTube views since 2013. Still, this song being as delightfully catchy as it is, it’s not that surprising that it would be accumulating online views long after its original release.
8 Counting Stars - 858 million
More than 858 million people know that lately Ryan Tedder, lead singer of OneRepublic, has “been losing sleep.” These are the memorable opening words of the next entry on this list, “Counting Stars.”
The song, which was a pretty big hit reaching #2 on the Billboard, still did not make it to #1. How, then, did it get 858 million views on YouTube? Well, perhaps it’s because of the lead singer’s amazing ability to produce catchy music. In fact, he, like Kanye West, was a successful producer long before he was a performer, having created tracks like Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love,” which hit #1. Given his credentials, his own song likely will keep rising til it breaks the billion.
7 Waka Waka - 884 million
This Shakira song, full title “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)”, has 884 million views on YouTube. Compared to 2014’s World Cup song, “We Are One (Ola Ola)”, which only has 397 million, “Waka Waka” must have more going for it than just being related to the World Cup, however much international appeal that does tend to give a work of art.
The interesting thing about this song is that it has all those views despite being released in 2010. The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” released only a year prior and #1 for 12 weeks only has 198 million Vevo views, even though it was seemingly a much bigger and more successful hit. The music of “Waka Waka” will keep people moving until it moves past the billion, itself.
6 Love The Way You Lie - 890 million
“Love The Way You Lie,” the controversial song by Rihanna and Eminem complemented by a controversial video featuring Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan, was released in 2010 – way back when iPhone 4s were the hottest smartphones on the market. How, then, did the song rack up almost 900 million views on YouTube?
It’s probably due to both the infectiousness of the song and the sexiness of the video; Megan and Dominic’s characters fight like cats and make up like dogs. Either way, with 890 million views, the video is heading steadily for the billion. It might take it some time, but having gone strong for the last five years, it’s sure to get there eventually.
5 Party Rock Anthem - 900 million
We have officially passed the 900 million mark for videos. At this point, a song’s potential to reach the billion in undeniable, no matter when it was released. The first song in this bracket is the prophetic “Party Rock Anthem,” which was released by middling pop group LMFAO in 2011 and became exactly what it calls itself: an anthem.
Back at the turn of the decade, it was impossible to escape this song in nightclubs, shopping malls, automobiles, or even the Sahara Desert. Everyone was listening to it and shuffling (everyday!) It was a dance craze so intense that Obama danced to it on CNN (or did he...?). Given that level of popularity, the 900 million is to be expected and the billion to be anticipated.
4 All About That Bass - 919 million
Aah, the entry everyone has been expecting: Meghan Trainor’s 2014 hit single “All About That Bass,” which stayed in the Billboard penthouse for eight weeks last year and as a result gathered 919 million YouTube views.
The colorful music video, one of the few positive representations of overweight people, and especially overweight women, in modern media, captivated worldwide imaginations and garnered the song well-deserved attention. In what has been called “The Year of Booty,” “All About That Bass” might have been the most influential, but JLo’s “Booty,” featuring Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” and Kim Kardashian’s Paper Magazine cover definitely contributed (contribootied?) This booty beat, already most of the way there, will shimmy past 1 billion any day now.
3 Shake It Off - 920 million
All right, we have officially moved into the real titans of YouTube views this list.
Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” currently has 920 million views on YouTube. Justin Bieber’s fans are fanatical and Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters” are equally staunch, but none seem quite as adamant as Taylor Swift’s fans, the “Swifties.”
In fact, the adoring group of fans helped Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” the hit #1 song, become the fastest YouTube video to reach 1 billion views ever. Her previous #1 song, “Shake It Off,” perhaps a little less catchy but equally omnipresent, can’t be too far behind, given her faithful fans and its already enormous number of views.
2 Bailando - 946 million
The 2014 song by Enrique Iglesias has not one, not two, but three versions: one in English, one in Portuguese, and one in Spanish. In an extremely savvy business move, the artist created songs that would intimately appeal to markets the world over.
The English version has a 136 million views, a testament to its relative lack of success in North America. The Portuguese version has even fewer views at 33 million. But the Spanish version has a whopping 946 million YouTube views. Taken together, these views give the song far more than 1 billion views. But the Spanish version alone only needs another cool 50 million to reach that star status, and given the proven success of the song, it can’t be too far away.
1 Roar - 985 million
Number one on this list is Miss Katy Perry, who has 985 million views on her #1 hit “Roar.” One of the catchiest songs about overcoming obstacles ever recorded, this song is only millimeters (billimeters?) away from reaching the 1 billion mark.
Katy Perry has, like Taylor Swift, proven herself capable of achieving this: “Dark Horse,” her follow-up single, currently has 1.02 billion views on YouTube. Given that Katy Perry was deemed enough of a superstar to perform at the last Superbowl, one of the biggest media events in the world, then it can’t be too long before “Roar” roars into 1 billion.