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The 10 most-viewed YouTube videos of all time

Weird children’s videos are giving pop stars a run for their money

Korean musician Psy walking toward the camera in the music video for ‘Gangnam Style’ Psy
Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

After 15 years of hosting videos, and with approximately 300 hours of video uploaded to the service every minute, YouTube reinvents itself on a daily basis. And while the YouTube algorithm works in mysterious (and potentially dangerous) ways, view counts give us a clear idea of what’s uber-popular on the service.

In the early days of YouTube, the most-watched videos tended to be viral moments such as “Charlie Bit My Finger.” But as the platform evolved, big-name celebrities took over the charts with music videos — only to be challenged by a growing number of bizarre children’s videos that continue to amass views. The biggest surprise is that no legacy hit is safe; every video in the top 10 most-viewed videos of all time arrived in the past eight years.

With that, here’s a look at the top 10 most-watched YouTube videos (as of publish — like everything on YouTube, the numbers could skyrocket at the drop of a new hat).

10. “Sorry” (2015) - 3.36 billion views

The video for Justin Bieber’s Vine-promoted electro-pop tune “Sorry” is full of neon-clad dancers. Many speculated that it may be about more than a relationship, and perhaps hinted at the singer’s more controversial moments, but Bieber confirmed that the song is specifically about ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez. Remember Jelena? The pairing is immortalized in this YouTube-dominating song.

9. “Learning Colors - Colorful Eggs on a Farm” (2018) - 3.65 billion views

Every video in YouTube’s most viewed list is either a music video by a popular artist or a kid’s video that has probably been played on repeat by so many children that it managed to surpass the power of stans. “Learning Colors - Colorful Eggs on a Farm” is one of these. It is frankly terrifying, as six eggs with painted smiles split in half, let their insides be filled with ominous liquid, close back up, and shake themselves to reflect the colors inside. “Old MacDonald Had Farm” plays ominously in the background. It somehow only becomes more horrifying as the video progresses.

8. “Gangnam Style” (2012) - 3.84 billion views

“Gangnam Style” might never have made it to America if rapper T-Pain hadn’t tweeted about it in 2012. “The YouTube video never targeted foreign countries. It was for local fans,” Korean rapper Psy told Reuters in an interview after the video went viral.

While K-pop had garnered much popularity outside of Korea before “Gangnam Style,” the genre had yet to spark fervor in the United States. Journalist Mark James Russell theorized in 2012 that “this [K-pop’s popularity in the West] could soon change because of ‘Gangnam Style.’” One could postulate that the current K-pop frenzy in the United States — BTS making headlining appearances on various talk shows and sweeping the nation with sold out tours; girl group Loona sparking a viral meme that befuddled those unfamiliar with K-pop canon — can be traced back to this K-pop video that could.

7. “Uptown Funk” (2014) - 3.99 billion views

The incredibly catchy Bruno Mars song tied for the second longest-reigning No. 1 on the Billboard 100 in 2014, and broke the record for most streamed track in the United States, United Kingdom, and worldwide in one week. The success of the song translates to success of its music video, which was nominated for various awards and made a few “Top Music Videos of 2014” lists. Just thinking about the funky bop might get it stuck in your head.

6. “Johny Johny Yes Papa” (2016) - 4.14 billion views

“Johny Johny Yes Papa” in its various iterations became a hot meme in 2018, though weirdly enough it was not this particular iteration that first exploded on weird corners of the internet. Rather, it was a video uploaded by Billion Surprise Toys that surfaced from shitpost avenues to main Twitter feeds. This one is slightly less janky, so perhaps that is why it became so popular. Anyway, this is all to say that the concept of the childhood nursery rhyme and its funky CG adaptations have a stronghold on the vast, lawless wilderness that is children’s YouTube.

5. “Recipe for Disaster” (2012) - 4.36 billion views

“Recipe for Disaster”from the Russian animated series Masha and the Bear the oldest video on the list, predating “Gangnam Style” by seven months. It once sat upon the throne of most viewed kids video of all time, till a younger and more beautiful video came along to cast it down.

Interesting notes about “Recipe for Disaster”: it is also the longest video on this list, clocking in at just over six minutes; it is the only video on this list that is not a music video in some way shape or form; and it’s an episode of a pretty popular Russian children’s web series, which, predictably, is now all on Netflix.

4. “See You Again” (2015) - 4.79 billion views

The Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth collab is a tribute to Fast and Furious actor Paul Walker, who died in a car accident before his final franchise appearance in Furious 7. After the film’s release, “See You Again” became the longest-running rap No. 1 single in the United States. The music video surpassed “Gangnam Style” as the most liked YouTube video of all time in 2017.

3. “Shape of You” (2017) - 5.05 billion views

Ed Sheeran’s crooning pop hit became the most streamed song on Spotify in 2018. Sheeran originally wrote the song with Rihanna in mind, but ended up performing it himself. The song received positive acclaim, though Jeremy Gordon of Spin noted “you can’t really picture Sheeran ever saying ‘put that body on me’ to a real human woman.” The music video manages to paint Sheeran as a sort of rugged boxer, making the lyrical choice seem a bit more plausible. At the end ... he battles a sumo wrestler.

2. “Despacito” (2017) - 7.04 billion views

The gap between “Despacito” and the third place video is bigger than the gap between any of the other videos. One might think that the fact that the song is a punchline to a meme might contribute, but the song amassed 1 billion views in just 97 days and eventually broke the record for most viewed YouTube video in August 2017 — all before the first instance of the “That’s so sad, Alexa play Despacito” meme on Tumblr in June 2018. Billboard notes that the song renewed interest in Latin music from U.S. record labels. In addition to being the most viewed video on YouTube, “Despacito” is also the most liked, stealing the title from “See You Again.” And with an infectious, danceable melody, what’s not to like about “Despacito”?

Once, it was the most viewed YouTube video of all time, but another challenger swam to the top…

1. “Baby Shark Dance” (2016) - 7.05 billion views

The infectious children’s song slowly swam its way up the Top 10 through 2019 and 2020 until, finally, it cinched the coveted spot at the top of this list in November 2020. What was once just another kid’s video exploded into a viral meme and pop culture sensation. Parents everywhere know the power of Baby Shark, which casts a Pied Piper-esque trance over small children ever. No one is immune to that “doo doo doo doo doo doo” and Baby Shark has transcended the wastelands of kids’ YouTube to become an actual legitimate brand. There are Baby Shark mobile apps, Baby Shark merchandise, and an upcoming Nickelodeon show. Baby Shark once benefitted from the clicks of children’s YouTube but is now bigger, greater, and more powerful than any other video on the platform.

Doo doo doo doo doo doo.

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