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The Top Ten YouTube Videos of All Time

By Brian | March 20, 2011 | Share on Facebook

A friend of mine just sent me a link to the Top Ten YouTube Videos of All Time. Reviewing the list, I realized that I hadn’t seen any of them, so I sat myself down and watched them all.

Below the cut, you’ll find links to each video, along with a few of my thoughts on each one (WARNING: Contains Bieber)

1. Justin Bieber – Baby ft. Ludacris – 476,504,704 views
I’ll admit, when I first heard of Justin Bieber, I wrote him off as another industry manufactured teen pop idol – the kind of singer manufactured by a record company to separate teens and tweens from the credits in their iTunes accounts. But the more I hear about him, the more I think he’s for real. His music isn’t my cup of tea, but that’s OK – I’m nowhere near his target audience. This video represents the only song of his I’d actually recognize, and looking at it now (after close to half a billionpeople before me), I recognize an obvious homage to Michael Jackson – everything from the confident young kid wooing his best girl to the coordinated group dancing to the rap interlude (with Ludacris as Vincent Price?). Heck, he even moon walks. So, there you go, Mr. Bieber. This 40-something is willing to cut you some slack, even if I’ll probably never buy one of your songs.

2. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance – 351,620,853 views
This video confirmed for me what I’ve always thought of Lady Gaga – video is her best medium. Everything interesting about this performance involves the visual – crazy costumes, harsh lighting, quick camera cuts, references to varied (and often clashing) historical genres, and, of course, the requisite crotch-grabbing and partial nudity. She is interesting to watch, in the sense that you’ll likely see something you’ve never seen before, but it begs the question, “Why would anyone watch one of her videos more than once?” Musically, she is moderately talented at best. There have been comparisons to Madonna, which are apt in the sense that in her heyday, Madonna was a master of marketing her brand, and that is definitely something that Lady Gaga has done extremely well. But Madonna could also sing and dance, and without a lot of special effects. For this reason, I think Lady Gaga will always have a lot of YouTube views, but will likely not achieve Madonna’s success or longevity. Time will tell, I guess…

3. Shakira – Waka Waka(This Time for Africa); 309,961,284 views
This is one of those videos that is popular because it’s tied to an event that’s bigger than itself – in this case, the 2010 World Cup . Lots of clips of famous players and plays that, as a soccer-challenged American, I don’t know enough about. But the World Cup is the biggest event in global sports, and a source of tremendous pride for the home country. Shakira scored the “Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Song,” which obviously drew a huge audience. The song is OK (more musically interesting than either of the previous two), but would almost certainly not have achieved this kind of success had it not been for its association with soccer’s biggest stage.

4. Eminem – Love The Way You Lie ft. Rihanna; 296,974,332 views
Eminem does with rap music what the great Renaissance artists did with paint. He expresses deep emotion in a way that is undeniable, even to someone who isn’t an aficionado of the art form. This video is difficult to watch. There is violence, anguish and obvious pain in every verse and every image. The main character feels remorse and tries to apologize, but in the space of a single verse, his temper rises again and lands him back in that ugly, terrible place depicted in the video. It’s one of those times where the profanity is 100% appropriate, given the subject matter. As with the other songs on this list, you won’t find me with Eminem music on my iPod, but focusing on him for four minutes and twenty-seven seconds is enough to help me understand why others do.

5. Charlie bit my finger – again !; 286,339,624 views
Sometimes you look at the Internet and say to yourself, “Why?” This is one of those times. I’m guessing one in ten families with small children have home video that’s roughly as cute and/or funny as this one, but far fewer than a quarter of a billion people have seen it. Who’s to say which one goes viral? No one knows. All we can do is marvel at how the world loves to have communal experiences, and admit that others we know having seen a thing is reason enough to watch it ourselves. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but now we have a tool like YouTube to help us quantify it.

6. Justin Bieber – One Time; 222,161,184 views
This video is yet another call back to the days in which videos told stories – little movies without dialog. The song isn’t much to listen to, and you’ll forgive me being an old fogey here, but I suspect the day will come when 35 year-old Justin Bieber looks back at his 16 year-old self singing to a girl about how she’s his “one heart; one love” and will “give her everything she needs” and just laughs and laughs and laughs. In the meantime, though, stuff like this fuels his teen-idol status, and fills young girls’ heads with dreams of being with their heart throb. Ain’t nothing wrong with that…

7. Eminem – Not Afraid; 206,729,645 views
This is another Eminem video filled with the same kind of raw emotion, although this one seems much more superficial – a giant “F*** YOU” to anyone who’s ever criticized or wronged Eminem in some way throughout his life and career. Who knows – maybe he’s singing about a specific, difficult time in his life? Or maybe he’s just whining about how hard it is to be one of the most successful performers in the history of music. I won’t judge because I don’t really know. I’ll just say I’m glad I watched Love the Way You Lie first, and I understand why it’s generated over 100 million additional page views.

8. Miley Cyrus – Party In The U.S.A. – Official Music Video; 198,227,782 views
If Eminem is the tough-to-swallow medicine, then Miley Cyrus is the spoonful of sugar that helps that medicine go down. Gone is all the hard angst and raw emotion of life’s big problems, replaced by a young girl dancing in the back of her pickup truck or in front of a giant American flag, and singing about partying and listening to Jay-Z and Britney Spears on the radio. Music (and music video) will always have a place for this kind of feel-good escape, which is great for a singer like Miley, as long as she understands that it’ll only last until the next one comes along.

9. Pitbull – I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho); 167,844,208 views
Oh, look – a guy who’s barely singing standing next to scantily clad, big-breasted women, starring in a “video for the deaf” (and by that, I mean a video in which all the important words are printed on the screen in large font, so you don’t have to hear the song to know what it’s about). The fact that this video has 168 million views suggests to me that there’s a dance club somewhere in the world that’s playing it on a loop every night and didn’t bother to download it. I guess it has a good dance beat, but after that? Meh. Allow me the hubris to disagree with the millions who have watched it and suggest moving on to something else.

10. Evolution of Dance; 166,110,666 views
Now, THIS is what YouTube was meant to be about. An above-average dancer in a pair of blue jeans and and an Orange Crush T-Shirt re-creating many of the iconic dance moves of the last forty years. The setting suggests he’s on stage at a small comedy club somewhere, showing the crowd a really good time. The kind of thing that everyone in the audience would tell their friends about the next day: “Yeah, you should have seen this guy last night. It was really cool. He played a bunch of old music and did these cool dances. You should have seen it…” But now, they can see it, because it’s on YouTube.

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