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15 of the Most Viewed YouTube Videos of all Time

A year ago we took our first look at the 15 most-viewed videos on YouTube. We thought it was time to update our post, to reflect the viewing habits of 2018.

According to 2016 research undertaken by Pexesco, music only accounts for 4.3% of YouTube’s content. Yet it makes 11% of the views. Clearly, an awful lot of people watch a comparatively small number of music videos. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the most watched videos of all time on YouTube are predominantly music videos.

Surprisingly there has not been an enormous change over the last year. Luis Fonsi’s Despacito still holds the record as YouTube’s most viewed video. With 5.76 billion views to date, it now has a commanding lead over Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, which has 3.94 billion views. Sheeran’s dancehall-infused pop song managed to leapfrog over Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again, however.

Some of the more significant changes came further down the table where, Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk jumped two places to #4, matching a fall of the same magnitude by Psy’s Gangnam Style. Psy must be wondering how his once mega-hit is now less popular than an unofficial upload of a Russian children’s story.

Towards the bottom end of our table we have a couple of new entrants – a second Ed Sheeran number, Thinking Out Loud makes #12, and OneRepublic’s Counting Stars now comes in at #13. Neither song is new to YouTube, however. Thinking Out Load was uploaded in October 2014 while Counting Stars appeared on the site in May 2013.

Indeed, it has been a slow year for 2018 songs to make traction. The most successful video uploaded in 2018 is currently Nio Garcia, Darell, and Casper Magico’s Te Boté (Remix), now at #57.

The best-known influencers certainly have popular channels. However, most gained their fame by having many people watching a broad range of videos. None of these genuine influencers has one-off videos with world-shattering viewing figures. PewDiePie’s most popular video (A Funny Montage) has about 84 million views. In comparison, Major Lazer’s Lean On (#15 on this list) has had nearly 2.5 billion views.


15 of the Most Viewed YouTube Videos of all Time:


1. Despacito – Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee

Despacito’s rise to the top of this list in its debut year, 2017, demonstrated two essential points about YouTube. Firstly, it showed that YouTube’s popularity is forever increasing. There was a time when nobody thought that anybody would overtake Gangnam Style.

It also demonstrated how YouTube is now a global phenomenon. Despacito, which is Spanish for “Slowly,” is sung in Spanish by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and features Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee. The music video shows both artists performing the song in La Perla neighborhood of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and the local bar La Factoría.

The song topped the charts of 47 countries and entered the Top 10 in ten others. It was the first song to top the Billboard 100 in Spanish in 20 years.

Interestingly, Justin Bieber released a remix version a few months later, where he sang some lines in English. While this probably helped the original’s YouTube performance, it didn’t overtake it or enter the YouTube Most Viewed charts.

Despacito became the first video on YouTube to achieve the milestones of three, four, and five billion views. It overtook See You Again to take YouTube’s All-time Number 1 spot in August 2017.


2. Shape of You – Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran has had a hugely successful couple of years. No matter where you went, there always seems to be an Ed Sheeran song playing. He even performed a cameo role in an episode of “Game of Thrones.”

He released Shape of You as a digital download on 6 January 2017. He also included it as part of his third studio album.

The song made it to Number 1 on the singles charts of 44 countries. It topped the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 2017. It was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.

Ed Sheeran released a lyric video for the song on his channel. People have viewed that version over 750 million times to date. On 30 January 2017, the official video was uploaded to YouTube. The video became one of the fastest videos to reach 1 billion views on YouTube. It achieved this milestone on 8 May 2017, just 97 days after its release.

The song continues to perform, with only Despacito now having more YouTube views.


3. See You Again – Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth

See You Again held YouTube’s Number One position from July 10 to August 4, 2017, and was the video that finally broke “Gangnam Style’s” hold on the top rank. It was, of course, only 25 days, until Despacito made its charge and overtook See You Again.

The main reason for See You Again’s success was that it was commissioned as the theme for the movie, “Furious 7”. It was written as a tribute to fan-favorite, the late actor Paul Walker.

It is both Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s most successful track to date. The song spent 12 weeks at the top of the US Billboard 100 and reached Number One in a number of other countries.

It also held the record for the most streamed track in a single day on Spotify in the US, as well as records for most streams in a  week worldwide and in the UK.

Overall, See You Again was the best selling song in the world in 2015.


4. UpTown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

British record producer, Mark Ronson, along with American singer/songwriter, Bruno Mars, recorded UpTown Funk and released it as a single on 10 November 2014.

It spent 14 consecutive weeks at Number 1 on the US Billboard 100 and reached Number 1 in the charts in several other countries.

UpTown Funk became the second best-selling single of 2015. It won two Grammy Awards, including the record of the Year.

The music video was released a week after the single – 17 November 2014. It shows Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, and the Hooligans walking around cities, kitted out in brightly colored suits and chains. It was filmed in a range of cities where Bruno Mars was touring.

The video was almost as popular as the song, gathering more than 3.37 billion views to date, which is enough to bump it up two positions in the YouTube charts this year.


5. Masha and the Bear: Recipe for Disaster – Get Movies

This is by far the most unusual video on this list. It is not a music video. It is not an official video (although official copies of this episode do exist on YouTube). And it is in Russian.

This particular video is technically called Маша и Медведь (Masha and The Bear) – Маша плюс каша, as it is a Russian version.

Masha and the Bear is a Russian animated television series, loosely based on an oral children’s folk story. It is a Russian children’s television series, of four seasons (to date) consisting of 68 episodes. Some episodes of the English-language version are available on Netflix.

All of the episodes have been uploaded to YouTube over time, and three of them have exceeded 1 billion views. There is an official YouTube channel – MashaMedvedTV.

It is thought that one of the reasons for the show’s popularity is that Masha is dressed in a folk costume with a headscarf. Her legs are covered. This makes the show acceptable to Muslim audiences, including populous countries, such as Indonesia.

This particular episode, “Recipe for Disaster,” was originally episode number 17. It is episode 7.1 on Netflix (which combines several of the short Masha and the Bear episodes together).


6. Gangnam Style – Psy

It would be fair to say that Gangnam Style was an unexpected mega-hit, that set records on YouTube, that some people believed would never be bettered.

The video shows Psy poking fun at the style of Seoul’s Gangnam-gu. This is claimed to be, “a flashy district with high rents, high expectations and a focus on the high-status lifestyle.”

Psy’s official YouTube account uploaded the video on July 15, 2012. On November 24th that year, Gangnam Style overtook Justin Bieber’s then-record of 803,700,000 views to take the coveted Number 1 spot on YouTube. It stayed in that position for an incredible 1,689 days.

Gangnam Style didn’t take long to take the accolade of being the first video to reach 1 billion views on YouTube, receiving that honor in December 2012. It reached 2 billion views in June 2014, and 3 billion in January 2018.

The video holds a few other YouTube records. It was the most rated video until February 2017, and most liked video until August 2016. Until Adele’s Hello passed it on January 18, 2016, it held the record for the fastest video to reach 1 billion views. It still holds the record for being the most discussed video.


7. Sorry – Justin Bieber

It should surprise nobody that Justin Bieber has a video on YouTube’s Top 10. He is one of the most visible symbols of the YouTube generation. It is perhaps surprising that he cannot claim more of the videos in this top group, although he does have videos of his songs in positions 23 and 24.

Sorry comes from Justin Bieber’s fourth studio album, “Purpose.” It was released on October 23, 2015. The song topped the charts of 13 countries, including seven weeks in the top spot in Bieber’s native Canada. Globally, people bought more than 10 million copies of the song in 2016.

Unusually, they made the dance video of the song in New Zealand, featuring New Zealand dancers – the ReQuest Dance Crew, and New Zealand choreographer, Parris Goebel. Although this was originally just intended to be a lyric video, it ended up as the main one. It became the fifth fastest YouTube video to reach 1 billion views, and the fourth fasted to reach 2 billion views.


8. Sugar – Maroon 5

Sugar was recorded by Maroon 5 for their fifth studio album, “V.” It was released as a single on January 13, 2015.

It peaked at Number 2 on the US Billboard 100.

The band worked with film director, David Dobkin on the music video. He had previously directed the movie “Wedding Crashers,” and used that as inspiration for this video.

In the video, Maroon 5 crashes weddings across Los Angeles. This is not staged. Maroon 5 has genuinely crashed the weddings shown in the video. In reality, each groom was given some notice and agreed to let an unnamed, but famous band play at their wedding, but nobody else connected with the marriages had advance notice. It must have been a shock to the brides to find Adam Levine serenading them at their weddings.

The production team worked with wedding planners in Los Angeles to find suitable weddings for the video.

The band found it a fantastic experience. They were nervous that they would take attention away from people’s big days. Some of the grooms got cold feet and had to be talked into allowing the activity take place.

Everybody loved the surprise, however. Adam Levine stated, “It was an out of body experience. I had no idea I would be affected by the overwhelming reactions we received from the couples and guests.”


9. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift recorded Shake it Off as the lead single for her fifth album, “1989”. The song premiered on a Yahoo! Live stream on August 18, 2014. The studio released the video on YouTube and made the song available for digital download on the same day.

Shake it Off is Taylor Swift’s most successful Billboard Hot 100 song to date. It stayed in the chart for 50 consecutive weeks.

Mark Romanek directed the video, and it features dances choreographed by Tyce Diorio. It incorporates dancing in the styles of hip-hop, lyrical, ballet, jazz, and cheerleader – even “twerking.”

If you exclude the cartoon character of Masha, this video holds the record for the most views of a video by a female artist.


10. Roar – Katy Perry

Who hasn’t seen the Katy Perry video for Roar, with Katy in her jungle, populated with wild animals?

She released Roar as the lead single for her 2013 album, “Prism” The lyrics focus on standing up for yourself and self-empowerment. The song was a huge success. It was certified as Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), making her the first artist to have three Diamond Awards.

The video tells a (fictional) story of Katy Perry adapting to life in the jungle after surviving a plane crash. She even tames a tiger. It was filmed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

When Roar reached 1 billion video views on YouTube, in July 2015, Katy Perry became the first artist to have two music videos exceed that milestone.


11. Bailando – Enrique Iglesias ft. Descemer Bueno and Gente De Zona

Bailando is another music video that highlights the international appeal of YouTube.

Spanish singer, Enrique Iglesias, recorded Bailando for his tenth studio album, “Sex and Love” in 2014.

He recorded several versions of the song. The original Spanish version also included vocals by Cubans, Descemer Bueno, and Gente de Zona. A Spanglish version features vocals by Jamaican singer Sean Paul. Enrique Iglesias also recorded two versions in Portuguese (with different people doing the additional vocals) for different markets.

The original Spanish version acts as the theme song for the soap opera Reina de Corazones.

They recorded four music videos– one for each version of the song. They filmed the videos for the Spanish and Spanglish version of the song in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The Spanish version has proven particularly popular, having been viewed more than 2.4 million times. People have also watched the Spanglish version 250 million times.


12. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

Thinking Out Loud comes from Ed Sheeran’s second studio album, “x.” His studio released it in the US on 24 September 2014 as the album’s third single.

It became Sheeran’s second number one single in the UK, also reaching the top spot in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and South Africa. Its best position in the US charts was number two. It became only the seventh single to have achieved triple platinum certification in the UK during the 21st century.

The song is the first that people have streamed more than 500 times on Spotify.

Most of the music video was filmed in the Crystal Ballroom at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California. It was shot continuously using a 16 mm film camera. Ed Sheeran took a more high profile role in this music video than he usually does. He executes a ballroom dance with Brittany Cherry, a contestant from dance competition, So You Think You Can Dance.

The video was uploaded to YouTube on October 8, 2014, and people have continued to view it ever since. It now has 2.5 billion views, boosting it up this table.


13. Counting Stars – OneRepublic

Counting Stars comes from American pop rock band OneRepublic’s third studio album, “Native.” It was released as the album’s third single in June 2013.

The single reached number one in many countries including Canada and the United Kingdom and peaked at number two in the United States.

The music video features the band performing the song in a gloomy ground floor of a building surrounded by hanging light bulbs, interspersed with scenes of several people in a religious revival service on the upper floor. The video ends with the demolition of the ceiling, with one of the people in the service falling through the floor, coming through the ceiling of the room where the band is performing. The video also features an alligator crawling through the ground floor.

The video became the first music video by a band in history to reach 1 billion views, in November 2015. It remains popular, and during 2018 crept into the list of top 15 music videos on YouTube. It now has had over 2.55 billion views on YouTube.


14. Dark Horse – Katy Perry ft. Juicy J

Not to be outdone by Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry also features two videos in this list of the 15 most viewed YouTube videos of all time.

Katy recorded Dark Horse with rapper Juicy J, releasing the song in September 2013.

It combines the genres of trap and hip-hop.

Pepsi used the song in a promotion. Fans could vote on Twitter whether they wanted this song or Walking on Air to be released as the first single from the album, “Prism.”

Dark Horse sold 13.2 million units and was the second-best selling song of 2014.

The video wasn’t released until February 2014. It has an Egyptian setting, where Katy plays “Katy Patra” – her version of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra.

Dark Horse was the first video from a female artist to receive 1 billion views on YouTube.


15. Lean On – Major Lazer and DJ Snake ft. MØ

Lean On comes from Major Lazer’s third album. “Peace is the Mission.” It is a house ballad.

In became the most streamed song of all time on Spotify in November 2015, although Drake’s One Dance overtook it the following year.

The music video for Lean On was directed by Tim Erem and filmed in India. It shows a sequence of Major Lazer, MØ and DJ Snake performing dance sequences.

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