These days, a music video can make or break a track. Regardless of how good a single is, if it’s accompanied by a less than amazing video, the chances of it becoming a success are slim to none. Likewise, support a less than amazing single with an eye-catching video and watch its sales take off. While record label bosses may still use chart position as an indicator of success, the rest of us know to look to YouTube for what’s hot and what’s not. If you’re interested in finding out more about the most viewed YouTube videos of all time, read on.
20. Blank Space, Taylor Swift - Views: 2.49 billion
Taylor Swift’s first entry to our top twenty is courtesy of her monster hit from 2014, Blank Space. The track comes from Swift’s fifth studio release “1989”; the album that marked her transition from a country star into a pop supernova. As well as earning more YouTube views than most artists can dream of, Blank Space achieved the feat of making Swift the first woman in chart history to knock herself off the top spot of the US Billboard Hot 100: her first release from 1989, Shake It Off, had been languishing at number 1 for 8 consecutive weeks before its successor stole its crown.
19. Faded, Alan Walker - Views: 2.50 billion
Released in December 2015, Faded by Norwegian record producer Alan Walker performed remarkably well in the charts, debuting at number 1 in more than 10 countries and achieving 2x platinum status in both the UK and US. Shot in Rummu quarry in Estonia, the music video shows a young man in black block attire wandering through an abandoned town clutching a photograph in his hand. With the photograph guiding his way, he finally locates his old home, only to find it in ruins. With one last backward glance, he removes his mask as the video fades. To date, the video has attracted over 2.5 billion views on YouTube and been streamed over 1 billion times on Spotify.
18. Let Her Go, Passenger - Views: 2.50 billion
Up next we have Let Her Go by English singer-songwriter Passenger. Released in July 2012, the track achieved massive commercial success, selling over 1 million digital copies in the UK and 4 million in the US. Produced and directed by Australian video artist Dave Jensen and Tavic, the video intercuts shots of a stage being prepared for an upcoming concert with footage of Passenger performing the track live. As Passenger’s best selling single of all time, the video has gathered huge attention, with current views exceeding the 2.5 billion mark.
17. Hello, Adele - Views: 2.56 billion
Taken from Adele’s third studio album, 25, Hello cemented the singer-songwriter’s reputation as one of the world’s biggest stars. With its themes of nostalgia and regret, the soulful lyrics and powerful vocals of the track won the praise of music critics (with Alexis Petridis of The Guardian summing up the general consensus by describing it as “precisely the kind of lovelorn epic ballad that made Adele one of the biggest stars in the world") and the hearts of fans, racking up more than 2.7 million Vevo views within the first 24 hours of its release (breaking Taylor Swift’s previous record of 20.1 million) and becoming the fastest record to hit 1 billion YouTube views.
16. Dark Horse, Katy Perry ft. Juicy J - Views: 2.64 billion
Released on September 17, 2013, Dark Horse by Katy Perry ft. Juicy J was a huge commercial success, debuting at number one in Canada, the Netherlands and the United States, and charting in the top 10 in another 20 countries. In addition to shifting more than 13.2 million units (making it the 2nd biggest selling single of 2014), the track gave Perry another clutch of awards and nominations to add to her collection, including an MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, and an American Music Award for Single of the Year.
15. Lean On, Major Lazer and DJ Snake ft. MØ - Views: 2.65 billion
Up next is an entry from 2015, Major Lazer and DJ Snake ft. MØ’s Lean On. The commercial success of the track (which debuted at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100, number two on the UK Singles Chart, and number one in Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Mexico and Switzerland) was matched by its critical reception, with Consequence of Sound describing it as a 'bouncy banger' and Village Voice giving it 25th place on their year-end critic's poll.
14. Bailando, Enrique Iglesias ft. Descemer Bueno and Gente De Zona - Views: 2.76 billion
Taken from Enrique Iglesias’ tenth studio album, “Sex and Love”, Bailando had the rare honor of being accompanied by 4 different videos, each targeted at a different demographic. The Spanish version has proved particularly popular, racking up more than 2.4 million YouTube views alone.
13. Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran - Views: 2.81 billion
Until Shape of You (more on which shortly), Thinking Out Loud represented English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s most commercially successful release, charting at number 1 in the UK, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovakia and South Africa, and peaking at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however: in August 2016, Sheeran was accused of copyright infringement by the family of Ed Townsend (the man behind Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On"). Fortunately for Ed, the claim was withdrawn before reaching court.
12. Shake It Off, Taylor Swift - Views: 2.82 billion
Taylor Swift 2nd entry on our list (and her highest ranking) comes with Shake It Off, the first track released from her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). The up-tempo dance beat proved a huge hit with fans, even if some did express regret at Swift’s departure from her earlier country style. Its entry at number one on the Billboard Hit 100 gave Swift her 2nd number 1 single in the US, and (after it managed to hang around the charts for a staggering 50 consecutive weeks) her biggest charting success of all time.
11. Counting Stars, OneRepublic - Views: 2.82 billion
As the band’s most commercially successful single of all time, Counting Stars by One Republic comes in next on our list. At the time of its release, the track (which is taken from the band’s third studio album, Native (2013)), charted at number one in Canada and the United Kingdom, number two in the US, and within the top ten in 20 more countries. Its accompanying video (which shows the band performing the track on the ground floor of a church while a service takes place above them) has since racked up enough YouTube views (over 2.8 billion and counting) to take it to 11th place.
10. Roar, Katy Perry - Views: 2.90 billion
Katy Perry’s 2nd entry comes with Roar, the lead single from her fourth studio album, Prism (2013). The accompanying music video features Perry cavorting with various animals in the jungle after a plane crash. While the critics greeted the track with a lukewarm reception, fans lapped it up, sending it to number one in Australia, Austria, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Lebanon, New Zealand, Scotland, Slovenia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and making Perry the first artist to certify Diamond on three singles. 2 years after its release, Roar became the fourth ever video to hit 1 billion Vevo views. As of September 2019, its YouTube views stand at over 2.9 billion.
9. Sugar, Maroon 5 - Views: 3.02 billion
The video to Sugar (which draws inspiration from the 2005 romantic comedy Wedding Crashers, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn) may be as saccharine as the track title, but that hasn’t stopped it achieving over 3.02 billion YouTube view to date. On its release in January 2013, the track took Marron 5 to number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 1 on the US Adult Top 40 and number 1 on the US Mainstream Top 40. Its success didn’t stop there: in the US, it achieved 8 x Platinum status, while in the UK, it certified 2 x Platinum.
8. Sorry, Justin Bieber - Views: 3.19 billion
Released as the 2nd single to Justin Bieber’s fourth studio album, Purpose (2015), Sorry managed to top the charts in thirteen countries, giving Bieber three consecutive weeks at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the distinction of being only the 12th artist to ever replace themselves at number one when his third track from the album, Love Yourself, peaked at number one in February 2016. The single was as well received critically as it was commercially, with the Los Angeles Times calling it an "airy tropical-house banger that makes the singer's first big hit, the puppyish 'Baby', seem like an artifact from a different era (which it pretty much is).”
7. Baby Shark Dance, Pinkfong Kids' Songs & Stories - Views: 3.38 billion
Who would have thought a children’s song about a family of sharks would have what it takes to beat the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber? With 3.38 billion views to date, Baby Shark Dance makes an unexpected addition to our top ten. Based on a traditional campfire song, the video’s success is an example of the persuasive influence of social media: not only has its YouTube popularity led to over 600,000 sales of the track in the UK alone, it’s even generated its own cereal (a berry-flavored variety of Froot Loops) and sparked rumors of a Netflix series (so far, the rumors haven’t been confirmed by Netflix, but who’s to say that won’t change with a few more views)?
6. Gangnam Style, Psy - Views: 3.42 billion
Released in July 2012, Gangnam Style is the lead single from South Korean musician Psy’s sixth studio album, Psy 6 (Six Rules), Part 1. Much of the success of the track (which reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the UK Official Singles Chart) has been down to its accompanying music video: since becoming the first YouTube video to hit 1 billion views, it’s now hit 3.42 billion views overall (becoming the most "liked" video on YouTube in the process) and sparked a flurry of parodies and reaction videos from everyone from Cody Simpson to MIT.
5. UpTown Funk, Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - Views: 3.65 billion
Taken from Mark Ronson’s fourth studio album, Uptown Special (2015), Uptown Funk achieved huge commercial success on its release, taking the number one position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and spending seven non-consecutive weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart. The track represents the biggest hit of both Ronson’s and Mars’ careers, while the accompanying video has enjoyed similar success: as of September 2019, it’s been viewed a mammoth 3.6 billion times, making it the fifth most-viewed YouTube video of all-time.
4. Masha and the Bear: Recipe for Disaster, Get Movies - Views: 4.12 billion
For those unfamiliar with the name, Masha and the Bear is a Russian cartoon based on a traditional Russian folk story of the same name. The show follows a little girl named Marsha and a friendly bear that protects her from disaster on their numerous adventures together. So far, the TV series has spawned several hugely successful YouTube videos (including “Bon Appétit" (1.3 billion views); "Laundry Day" (1.1 billion views); "The Foundling" (780 million views); "La Dolce Vita" (720 million views); "Hocus-Pocus” (670 million views); "One, Two, Three! Light the Christmas Tree!" (630 million views); "Two Much" (490 million views); "Little Cousin" (470 million views); and "Home-Grown Ninjas"(360 million views)), but its most successful is unquestionably Recipe for Disaster – Get Movies: the Russian language version alone has received more than 4.1 billion views, making it the most watched non-music video on YouTube.
3. See You Again, Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth - Views: 4.22 billion
Commissioned for the soundtrack of the 2015 action film Furious 7, See You Again serves as a melancholic tribute to actor Paul Walker, who died 2 years previously in a car accident. The track has since become the most successful single either Wiz Khalifa or Charlie Puth have ever released, spending 2 consecutive weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart, and 12 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100. The video, meanwhile, has managed to amass more than 4.22 billion views.
2. Shape of You, Ed Sheeran - Views: 4.38 billion
Just missing out on the top spot is Ed Sheeran with Shape of You. Released in 2017 as one of the two lead singles from his third studio album, Castle on the Hill (2017), Shape of You charted at number one in 34 countries, spending 12 non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and 14 non-consecutive weeks on the UK singles chart. Ranked by Billboard as the ninth most successful song of all-time, the accompanying music video has so far managed to grab 4.38 billion views.
1. Despacito, Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee - Views: 6.42 billion
In at number 1 with 6.42 billion views is Despacito, a track taken from Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi’s 2019 studio album, Vida. The track, which was released several years prior to Vida, has achieved such success it’s been credited as helping Spanish language music make the transition into the global mainstream. In addition to its staggering number of YouTube views, the track and its accompanying music video have been the recipients of numerous awards, including several Latin Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Urban Fusion/Performance, and Best Short Form Music Video
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson