15 Most Watched YouTube Videos

by Christina Vukova

People watch more than a billion hours of YouTube content every day. That’s a ridiculous amount of attention, and a large part goes to a select few videos. These videos have the power to shape our culture… and they do!

Now, personally, I like that YouTube has enough videos of cute animals to last me a lifetime. Obviously, I’m not alone – half a million people enjoyed this adorable video. These are not the heavy-hitters, though!

That made me wonder – what do others search for? Do they look for puppies, delicious recipes or comedy?

What are the most watched YouTube videos?

Looking for the answer to my question, I came across some staggering statistics. We all know YouTube is the most popular video sharing platform, but can you imagine that:

  • Over 300 hours of content get uploaded every minute.
  • YouTube’s users amount to about 1/3 of everyone online.
  • YouTube’s search volume is larger than that of Bing, AOL, Yahoo and Ask.com combined.
  • The top YouTube videos’ creators earn over $20 million annually.
  • YouTube has been translated in 80 different languages.
  • If YouTube’s users were a country, it’d be the third largest in the world.
  • After 2018’s YouTube Rewind, Justin Bieber’s “Baby” is the most disliked video with more than 10 million votes.

Honestly, that last one wasn’t too shocking. If you’re interested in more YouTube statistics – check out this article on the topic. Additionally, this awesome website can show you the activity on the platform each second.

In such a rapidly changing platform, it’s interesting to see what content has compelled viewers to come back again and again. So which are the most watched YouTube videos in April 2019? In the words of one of the most famous YouTubers out there – let’s just jump into it!

(Source: Forbes, Youtube, Om Malik, CBS, Mushroom Networks, MerchDope, Omnicore, Wikipedia)

15. Katy Perry – Dark Horse ft. Juicy J

Number of views: 2.56 billion

Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” video went up more than 5 years ago, yet it still gets about a million views per day. The song combines hip hop and trap and became the second best-selling song worldwide in 2014 (after “Happy” by Pharrell Williams).

The video takes place “a crazy long time ago” in Memphis, Egypt. Katy Perry is a magical version of Cleopatra, warning men not to fall in love with her or she’ll be their last. Several suitors try to impress the queen with gifts – diamonds, exotic food, a gold-plated carriage, even a portable pyramid. However, all of them fail and turn to sand.

The club music and entertaining video quickly became popular on YouTube. “Dark Horse” was even part of a Pepsi promotion before the release of the album “Prism”. Fans could decide if they preferred “Walking on Air” or this song to be the first single. The people of Twitter made their choice and “Dark Horse” went on to become the big hit we know today.

(Source: Fandom)

14. Baby Shark Dance – Pinkfong Songs for Children

Number of views: 2.69 billion

“Baby Shark” is a children’s song and dance about a family of sharks. The catchy tune has made this video one of the most viewed on YouTube. The lyrics are repetitive, therefore making it easy to sing along. The video description boasts that the dance will help children develop fine motor skills while having fun.

There are a lot of myths about the origins of the song. According to the legend, camp counselors, inspired by the movie “Jaws” created it. Before the Pinkfong version, the song also included verses about the sharks eating sailors and hunting fish.

Undoubtedly, a lot of the tune’s success comes from big K-pop bands like Red Velvet, Black Pink and Girls’ Generation, who covered it in their concerts. In 2017, there even was a challenge on Twitter to do the Baby Shark dance – #babysharkchallenge. As a result, it quickly went viral and today it’s the second most viewed animated video on YouTube.

(Source: Slate, BBC)

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

Number of views: 2.72 billion

Although this song has four versions in different languages, it’s the original that got the most views. “Bailando” was the first music video in Spanish to be watched more than a billion times. It’s been 5 years since the song went live on YouTube, but it still holds its place.

However, the lyrics are quite cliche. Enrique Iglesias, Descemer Bueno and Gente De Zona sing about that girl who’s driving them crazy and making them dance. The reason why this is among the best music videos of all time is the amazing choreography.

Filmed in Santo Domingo, in the clip we see streets, filled with dancing people. The featured dancers are from Havana’s Ballet Lizt Alfonso, the gorgeous Ana Karla Suarez in the lead. The energy of the video has compelled people to play it again and again, ensuring its spot in the top 15.

(Source: Billboard)

12. OneRepublic – Counting Stars

Number of views: 2.73 billion

It should come as no surprise that the song half the world was humming a couple of years ago is in this list. OneRepublic’s lead singer, Ryan Tedder, wrote “Counting Stars”, while he was working with Beyoncé He actually considered putting it forward for her album, but finally decided against it. A very smart move, considering its huge success!

James Lees directed the video. We see the band playing beneath an ongoing church congregation. This setting and the lyrics have moved a lot of fans to search for its deeper meaning. In any case, the facts are clear – it’s one of the most liked songs on the platform.

(Source: Songfacts)

11. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud

Number of views: 2.74 billion

“Thinking Out Loud” may not be in the top 10 most viewed YouTube videos, but is number one in another chart – first dance songs. The video was directed by Emil Nava, famous for his work with artists like Rudimental, Jennifer Lopez and Post Malone. It was shot at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

Unlike his previous videos, Ed Sheeran took on a lead roll in “Thinking Out Loud”. We see him and Brittany Cherry (a “So You Think You Can Dance” star) in a passionate contemporary dance. The intimate atmosphere and beautiful moves quickly made the video one of the most viewed on YouTube. Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, also known as Nappytabs, choreographed the routine.

Ed Sheeran worked hard to smooth out the dance and rehearsed with Cherry for 5 hours every day. In three weeks, he was ready for the performance that stole hearts all over the world.

(Source: Wikipedia)

10. Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

Number of views: 2.77 billion

“Shake it Off” was Taylor Swift’s lead single from her 5th album, “1989”. It premiered on a Yahoo! Live stream and it was only a matter of time until it made the list of YouTube’s most viewed videos. The song stayed in the charts for 50 weeks and still remains Swift’s most successful tune.

The video was directed by Mark Romanek and Tyce Diorio choreographed the dances. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Swift shared she couldn’t wait to go and shoot. The other dancers tried to teach her how to twerk, but she couldn’t pull it off. Still, you can clearly see how much fun she had in the video.

There are some references to other popular artists like Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Fergie and Skrillex. The people of YouTube obviously appreciated this, playing “Shake It Off” again and again.

(Source: Rolling Stone, Music Times)

9. Katy Perry – Roar

Number of views: 2.80 billion

Katy Perry has a second video that made it in the list of most viewed on Youtube. Although “Roar” was a huge success, it owes its popularity to its great pre-release campaign.

It all began with a short teaser. Perry shared a video titled “Burning Baby Blue” where we saw her burning the blue wig she wore throughout her California Dreams world tour.

A couple of days later, a second teaser came out. It showed a funeral procession, the coffin covered with the pink white pinwheels from the California Gurls video. Both teasers ended with #ROAR in a tiger-skin font.

When the single finally came out, people couldn’t wait to see what had changed. “Roar” has an empowering message, which quickly gained popularity. The song was even classified as Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America.

In the video, Perry survives a plane crash and is stuck in the jungle. After overcoming her fears, she manages to tame the animals around her. For instance, we see her brushing a crocodile’s teeth and painting the nails of an elephant. In the climax of the song, she even tames a tiger and appropriately names it Kitty Purry.

(Source: MTV)

8. Maroon 5 – Sugar

Number of views: 2.95 billion

When “Sugar” was released 4 years ago, it quickly became one of the top YouTube videos and it still holds its spot in 2019. After all, considering the amazing idea behind it, it’s not surprising how successful it was.

Maroon 5 contacted film director David Dobkin and asked him to be a part of the video. He was famous for the movie “Wedding Crashers”, which inspired “Sugar”’s concept.

The band crashed multiple weddings, surprising the guests with a short set. They considered not letting anyone know beforehand. However, the band was worried about ruining a special day, so they decided to at least tell the grooms. To preserve some secrecy, no one knew the name of the band, only that they were popular.

Dobnik contacted multiple wedding planners to pick out the perfect locations. Of course, the stages were already set for the wedding band, which made things easier. Afterwards, lead singer Adam Levine shared they had a lot of fun and that the reaction of the guests was overwhelming.

(Source: Wikipedia, ET)

7. Justin Bieber – Sorry

Number of views: 3.12 billion

Justin Bieber’s hit song asked the viewers – “Is it too late now to say sorry?”. Whatever he’s apologizing for, people graciously decided to forgive him and launched his YouTube video to the top.

“Sorry” is the second single from Bieber’s fourth album “Purpose”. After its release in 2015, it topped charts in 13 countries. In fact, it became one of the best selling digital releases globally. There were 10.8 million copies sold in 2016 alone!

The video was filmed in New Zealand and featured the ReQuest Dance Crew and The Royal Family. Parris Goebel choreographed the routine and also appeared as a dancer. Above all, he wanted the video to be fun and upbeat. Considering the reaction from the public, we dare say he did very well!

(Source: ET, IFPI)

6. PSY – Gangnam Style

Number of views: 3.34 billion

Who hasn’t heard “Gangnam Style”? The iconic horse-riding dance was the flossing of 2012 – everyone was trying to do it. In fact, we’ll probably live to see future generations hopping to it just like we do with “La Macarena”.

“Gangnam Style” was the unexpected hit of 2012. This is the reason why to this day, it still holds the record for being the most discussed one. The song polarized the world. It made it to 4th place of most liked YouTube videos and to 5th of the most disliked ones. Additionally, it was the first ever to reach 1 billion views on the platform.

The song’s actually satire and makes fun of Seoul’s Gangnam district, known as an expensive and pretentious part of the city.

(Source: Business Insider)

5. Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk ft. Bruno Mars

Number of views: 3.54 billion

It seems people took the “Don’t believe me, just watch” line quite literally. “Uptown Funk” is not only one of YouTube’s most watched videos – it also spent 14 consecutive weeks topping the US Billboard 100 and won two Grammys.

“Uptown Funk” has an 80’s disco sound that immediately set it apart from the other pop songs on the radio. After all, it’s light, bubbly and straight up goofy at times. The video reflects this well, as we see Bruno Mars in a pink jacket showing off his dance moves, alongside Mark Ronson and the Hooligans.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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

Number of views: 3.55 billion

“Masha and the Bear: Recipe for Disaster” is surprisingly in the top 5. This episode about mischievous Masha and the responsible Bear is actually the most viewed animated video of all time. In addition, it’s not a music clip and it’s in Russian. That’s right, the original title is “Маша и Медведь: Маша плюс каша”.

This is only one episode out of three seasons. However, the whole series has been very successful. Some speculate the reason is that the show is entertaining for adults, as much as kids (I can vouch for that). Furthermore, each episode lasts about 7 minutes – the perfect amount of time to keep the attention of a small child. “Masha and the Bear” was such a hit that you can even find it on Netflix.

The other reason behind its success may be hiding in cultural preferences. Since Masha is wearing traditional Russian clothes that cover her hair, legs and arms, Muslim parents may consider the animation appropriate for their children as well. Therefore, the content became popular in highly populated countries like Indonesia.

So if you’re interested to see the Bear trying to play checkers and Masha getting into trouble, definitely check this video out!

(Sources: IBM Industries, Quora, The Sun)

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

Number of views: 4.09 billion

Back in 2017, “See You Again” actually became the most viewed YouTube video for about a month. In fact, it was the one that dethroned “Gangnam Style”. The tune was also very successful in Spotify, becoming the most streamed track in one day with 4.2 million runs!

The song was such a big hit, as it was commissioned for the movie “Furious 7”. It was a tribute for lead actor Paul Walker after his untimely death. Soon, it became the best selling song of 2015. The video also featured multiple scenes from the movie.

(Source: Broadway World, Wikipedia)

2. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You

Number of views: 4.18 billion

Without doubt, Ed Sheeran is one of those artists everyone knows. In 2017, his music was the soundtrack to everyday life, blasting from speakers in every cafe, shop or bar around the world. Even people staying at home and binge-watching series couldn’t escape him, as Ed Sheeran featured in a “Game of Thrones” episode.

When “Shape of You” came out, it immediately became a huge success. It topped the charts in 44 countries and was nominated for several awards. In January 2017, the official video was uploaded on YouTube, instantly becoming vastly popular. It reached 1 billion views in only 97 days!

In the video we see Ed Sheeran falling for dancer and model Jennie Pegouskie. They both go boxing in the same gym and soon a romance flourishes. In the climax, Sheeran faces sumo wrestler Yamamotoyama Ryūta and is defeated. Of course, Pegouskie comes to the rescue just in time. Finally, we see the adorable scene of Sheeran rolling on the floor in a fatsuit, unable to get up.

(Source: Billboard)

1. Luis Fonsi – Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee

Number of views: 6.16 billion

Ever since its release in 2017, “Despacito” has been making YouTube history. It was the first video to reach 3, then 4, 5 and now 6 billion views! It’s also in first place of the most liked YouTube videos.

The song topped the charts in 47 countries and broke seven Guinness World Records. It was so popular that for a while, Apple’s voice assistant Siri even thought it was Bulgaria’s national anthem.

One of the reasons behind its success might be Justin Bieber’s remix. However, the original video still got far more attention. The truth is, no one knows why “Despacito” became such a sensation. Still, it definitely has something to do with the song being so undeniably energetic, upbeat and very, very catchy

The video was filmed in Puerto Rico. We see model Zuleyka Rivera partying with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee in several different locations. Whether it was the nice atmosphere or the beautiful women that made “Despacito” the most watched music video on YouTube, we will never know. However, good luck getting rid of that earworm now!

(Source: CNET, Forbes, Wikipedia, Billboard)

In Conclusion

The success of the videos above shows more than the world’s musical preferences. It also shines a light on how much YouTube is growing. Just a couple of years ago, it was ludicrous to think any internet video may have over 6 billion views. Now it seems only a matter of time until the next milestone gets shattered.

It’s also interesting to see how the top 15 will change. Are more episodes of “Masha and the Bear” going to be on there? Or will a new “Gangnam Style” break the counter?

I’d love to be able to answer these questions, but I’m afraid my crystal ball is in my other coat. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what the most watched videos in Youtube will be in the future!

References

  1. CNET, Forbes, Wikipedia, Billboard, Billboard
  2. Billboard
  3. Broadway World, Wikipedia
  4. IBM Industries, Quora, The Sun
  5. Wikipedia
  6. Business Insider
  7. ET, IFPI
  8. ET, Wikipedia
  9. MTV, MTV
  10. Rolling Stone, Music Times
  11. Wikipedia
  12. Songfacts
  13. Billboard
  14. Slate, BBC
  15. Fandom
Additional resources:
  1. Forbes
  2. Youtube
  3. Om Malik
  4. CBS
  5. Mushroom Networks
  6. MerchDope
  7. Omnicore
  8. Wikipedia

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