20 music videos on YouTube with more than three billion views, from Hello to Shape of You

Crazy Frog remains popular nearly 18 years after its release

Gangham Style by South Korean singer and producer Psy remains one of the most viewed songs on YouTube. AFP
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Linkin Park's 2003 track Numb has ticked over two billion views, while No Doubt's breakout hit, 1995's Don't Speak, also reached one billion views.

They join an increasingly crowded billion views club of more than 100 music videos including multiple entries by K-pop giants BTS and Blackpink and pop stars Rihanna and Beyonce.

The road to the YouTube summit, however, becomes intriguingly narrow yet varied once you get to the billion mark.

At present, there are seven official music videos with more than four billion views – of which four achieved five billion, three exceeded five billion and only one has reached the promised land of more than 10 billion views.

These elite videos range from the reggaeton vibes of Luis Fonsi's Despacito to the K-pop sugar rush of Gangnam Style by Psy, proving YouTube's biggest music videos are a varied bunch.

This all goes to show that there is no real formula when it comes to creating that next viral sensation.

So with that in mind, here are 20 music videos with more than three billion views on YouTube.

1. Baby Shark Dance by Pinkfong (12.92 billion)

The most viewed YouTube video of all time, this irrepressible children's song has probably racked up an equal number of sighs and eye rolls from parents since its 2016 release.

It is said that the song – about a family of sharks on a day out – traces its origins back to 20th century campfire singalongs.

It became a modern sensation, however, when South Korean education company Pinkfong created an animated video sung by 10-year-old Korean-American singer Hope Segoine. Children and families have been doo, doo, doo-ing to this song ever since.

2. Despacito by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee (8.17 billion)

There are viral music videos and then there is Despacito. Released in January 2017, the video began Fonsi's year-long takeover, during which he dominated both radio and streaming.

Three years on, the track continues to achieve strong streaming numbers to maintain its position as the most-watched music video on YouTube.

And how does Fonsi feel about it? When he spoke to The National at the end of 2017, he said that having a viral hit is akin to chasing a juggernaut.

“Everything has gone by so fast that it’s tough for me to have a grasp of what’s going on,” he said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I have been really enjoying it, but I will eventually take some time off to really take it all in and just really understand the magnitude of all.”

3. Shape of You by Ed Sheeran (6 billion)

Released on YouTube on January 30, 2017, it only took 97 days for the video to enter the billion views club.

A lot of this is down to the soulful premise of the video that gently breaks down societal stereotypes. Sheeran plays a boxer being coached by a black female champion, with that connection in the ring leading to a romance.

Sheeran went on to win a Grammy Award in 2018 for Best Pop Solo Performance for this song.

4. See You Again by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth (5.91 billion)

It's the music video that made even grown men cry.

The song was commissioned for the soundtrack to 2015 blockbuster Furious 7, and in it rapper Khalifa and singer Puth deliver a stirring tribute to the action franchise star Paul Walker, who died in a car crash in 2013.

What gives the track its lump-in-the-throat factor is its video featuring scenes of Walker from previous films in The Fast and the Furious franchise.

It ends with Walker driving off into the sunset, before the screen turns white and the words “For Paul” are displayed. As far as tributes go, this was a heartfelt and elegant send-off.

5. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars (4.93 billion)

Ever wished your life was a music video? Uptown Funk should be the one.

What's not to like? It has impossibly cool threads, a crazy party, spring sunshine and walking along to the soundtrack of one of the funkiest songs of the past two decades. Uptown Funk sounds like the best day ever.

6. Gangnam Style by Psy (4.81 billion)

While the world may have forgotten about K-pop rapper Psy, the impact of his Gangnam Style track continues to reverberate in the pop music landscape.

In South Korea, Psy's lyrics are viewed as a satirical takedown of the country's glitterati. In the West, it's looked upon as a novelty song.

What elevates it, however, is a music video that's a visual feast of vibrant colours and kooky characters. Gangnam Style didn't only provide a benchmark for music video production, it also became the Trojan horse for other K-pop acts to conquer the western music market.

7. Dame Tu Cosita by El Chombo (4.36 billion)

Originally released in 1997, the song by the Panamanian artist Chombo, featuring a guest verse by Jamaican dancehall act Cutty Ranks, is the gift that keeps on giving.

The song received initial attention courtesy of a decent 2018 remix with rapper Pitbull and singer Karol G.

The song went viral, however, when the song was remixed further – this time with the original vocals – and a zany animated video clip featuring a dancing frog.

Equally loved by children and clubbers, Dame Tu Cosita proves a good song can always endure – even with the help of a little green frog.

8. Axel F by Crazy Frog (3.93 billion)

The billion views list is full of hits and misses. Where this song falls depends on how contrived you like your pop.

Based on Harold Faltermeyer's famous electronic instrumental theme for the 1984 Eddie Murphy comedy Beverly Hills Cop, the track was remixed in 2005 by a group of German Eurodance producers and released as a ringtone for sale.

Featuring computerised vocals by the CGI character Crazy Frog, Axel F became a mainstay of both dodgy Nokia phones and the charts. Some may say that time has yet to show us the humour behind it all.

9. Sugar by Maroon 5 (3.87 billion)

Is it real or staged? Maroon 5 have been dogged by this question since releasing the video to their 2015 summer hit Sugar. But it's no bad thing, as it has kept people pressing play a few billion times.

Curiosity surrounds the premise of the video. Partly shot documentary-style, it follows Maroon 5 as they spend a day crashing a bunch of weddings. The newly-weds' reactions to one of the world's biggest bands performing for their big day are priceless.

When The National quizzed singer Adam Levine about the video in 2015, he confirmed it was partly staged. “I do want to clear up something about the video,” he says. “Half of the weddings we crashed and the other half were set up. We did that to cover our bases and to make sure we had all the footage. I would say 65 per cent of the video was real. It was crazy and a lot of fun.”

10. Roar by Katy Perry (3.80 billion)

It's a good thing this is a killer tune because the accompanying 2013 music video is more of a whimper than a roar.

For such a heroic anthem about conquering self-doubt, it seems rather ludicrous for Perry to visually set it to what resembles a spoof of both Indiana Jones and Jumanji.

11. Counting Stars by One Republic (3.80 billion)

It took two years for the video to reach over a billion views on the platform – a period matching the slow-burning success of One Republic's biggest hits.

Mostly set in a grimy basement and featuring a cameo appearance by an alligator, Counting Stars – released a decade ago this month – has the kind of propulsive chorus that means the video can be endlessly streamed.

12. Sorry by Justin Bieber (3.66 billion)

Who says you need a big budget to claim billions of views?

Bieber proves his stardom and a catchy track is more than enough to create his most watched music video.

Recorded on a simple soundstage, 2015’s Sorry features a gaggle of dancers in retro nineties outfits moving along to the song's throbbing rhythms.

By the time it's over, you realise that Bieber is not even in it. Well played.

13. Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira featuring Freshlyground (3.60 billion)

One of the great sporting anthems, Waka Waka was released as the official song for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Colombian singer Shakira captures the excitement and international flavour of the event with an infectious tune that mixes Latin rhythms and South African gospel vocals.

The fact it has eclipsed the tournament 10 years on is a testament to its evergreen and universal appeal.

14. Faded by Alan Walker (3.45 billion)

More than his epic dance tracks, British-Norwegian DJ Walker's secret weapon has always been his cinematic videos.

Faded, released in 2015, is no different and has the masked artist walking through a dystopian abandoned city with devastated high rises and derelict neighbourhoods.

15. Let Her Go by Passenger (3.44 billion)

Despite releasing 12 albums, English singer-songwriter Passenger (real name Mike Rosenberg) can't eclipse the success of this soulful anthem released back in 2012.

The music video is suitably subdued, featuring footage of a low-key gig being prepared before the singer takes the stage in front of a dedicated audience.

16. Bailando by Enrique Iglesias (3.39 billion)

The bigger the global fan base, the more visuals you need to make.

Spanish pop star Iglesias released two different videos – one in English and the other in Spanish – for this monster single.

Not surprisingly, it was the Spanish version that clocked the most watches. The English version also impressed with half a billion streams – featuring a joyful romp of flamenco dancers, young football players and that winning dose of Iglesias' sensuality.

17. Lean On by Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring Mo (3.39 billion)

Shot in Mumbai, the track features dance sequences inspired by Bollywood films complete with lavish settings and costumes.

Danish singer Mo, who sing's the hook, went on to reportedly acknowledge that certain sections of the video can be viewed as forms of cultural appropriation.

18. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift (3.29 billion)

For all her chart-conquering abilities, Swift's highest-viewed video is quiet far down the list when it comes to YouTube.

The 2014 video Shake it Off is replete with pop culture references from famous films as well as a variety of dance routines from cheer leading to hip-hop.

19. Mi Gente by J Balvin and Willy William (3.22 billion)

A 2017 global smash underscoring the commercial clout of reggaeton.

Colombian singer Balvin reworks French producer Willy William's 2016 track Voodoo Song by adding his sultry vocals and pushing the winning horn loop to the forefront.

Mi Gente was such a success that even Beyonce released her own remix a few months later.

20. Hello by Adele (3.07 billion)

This brooding video has achieved a couple of landmarks: it was the fastest to accrue one billion views, having garnered those in a mere 87 days, and it is credited as being the first music video produced in the widescreen IMAX format.

To match the song's heart-rending subject matter, the video is shot in a grim and Gothic style. The plot has Adele and her on-screen partner trying to salvage a broken bond.