While you may visit YouTube to catch the latest viral hits, watch clips from your favorite shows, or get a quick look at the biggest plays from yesterday’s game, the top videos on YouTube are actually music videos. In fact, as of December 2023, the entirety of the top 10 YouTube videos of all time are music videos that we’ve all probably spent some time playing on repeat. Some of these videos are pop hits, but many are catchy songs for kids: more than half of the most popular YouTube videos are for the toddler crowd.
So, let’s take a look at the very best (or at least the most popular) videos on YouTube. Which are your favorites?
1. Baby Shark Dance
Views: 13.8 billion
It should come as no surprise that “Baby Shark” is the most-watched YouTube video of all time. Love it or hate it, this all-too-catchy tune will get stuck in your head from the opening beats, and you’ll find yourself humming it without even realizing it. The simple lyrics, brightly-colored animations, and associated shark dance moves have been a hit with kids. Adults were inspired to make memes and remixes, and the Baby Shark Challenge had countless viewers imitating the dance and posting their own videos on YouTube and social media. The Baby Shark hype may have slowed down, but it remains the top video on YouTube – as well as the first (and only) to have passed 10 billion views.
Views: 8.3 billion
By: Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee
Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee rocketed to the top of the charts on YouTube with pop Latin hit “Despacito.” It was a big moment for Latin music, and hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list for 16 weeks running – only the third Spanish-language song to hit #1. The song has a great dance beat, and the video plays into it with footage of the artists dancing in the streets (and clubs) in San Juan. This was one of the fastest-rising videos on YouTube, racking up its first billion views in just three months – but it was eventually eclipsed by the kid-friendly “Baby Shark.”
3. Johny Johny Yes Papa
Views: 6.8 billion
By: LooLoo Kids
This simple call-and-response format of this nursery rhyme is sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and is exceptionally easy for kids to pick up and sing along to – which has no doubt contributed to repeat plays on its way to 6.8 billion views. It’s one of many videos of the same rhyme, in which a parent chides a child for eating sugar (in this case, literal sugar cubes), and some versions – namely low-quality and cartoonish versions – have achieved meme status via social media. This version, however, focuses on kid appeal with clean, brightly colored animation.
4. Bath Song
Views: 6.5 billion
If “Bath Song” sounds familiar, that’s probably because this kid-centric video has liberally borrowed from “Baby Shark.” But instead of running from sharks, this video encourages kids to take a bath with a cheerful repeated chorus of “wash my face do do do do do do” that guides kids through bath time with sing-along lyrics at the bottom of the screen. It’s easy to see why parents would play this video and make use of the catchiness of “Baby Shark” to get kids into the bath.
5. Shape of You
Views: 6.1 billion
By: Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” was a huge hit, topping the singles charts in 34 countries and becoming the best-performing song of 2017. The YouTube music video can certainly credit the catchy tune for some of its success. But the video itself is an unusual Rocky homage in which Sheeran trains for a boxing match…but winds up in the ring with a sumo wrestler instead. The music video is a great cinematic story whether you like the music or not.
6. See You Again
Views: 6.1 billion
By: Wiz Khalifa, featuring Charlie Puth
This song from the Furious 7 soundtrack is a tribute to Paul Walker, Fast and Furious actor who passed away while Furious 7 was filming. The cross-genre collaboration mixes hip-hop and rap with a piano-backed ballad, and the video is interspersed with footage from Furious 7. Somehow, the odd blend of genres works as a touching tribute.
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7. Wheels on the Bus
Views: 5.7 billion
This is the second video in the top ten from kids’ content channel CoComelon, which has created thousands of colorfully animated videos with catchy songs, including traditional tunes like this one. The video pairs this children’s classic with a colorfully animated bus that bounces in time to the music and lyrics at the bottom of the screen, making for a perfect sing-along. It’s hardly a new song, but it remains quite catchy!
8. Phonics Song with Two Words
Views: 5.6 billion
By: ChuChu TV
More than anything else on this list, the “Phonics Song” is educational. It’s a simple concept that goes down the alphabet with simple words featuring each letter with repeated sounds to teach pronunciation. Pair that with a consistent beat and colorful graphics, and you have a hit that parents can play for their kids without worry.
9. Uptown Funk
Views: 5.1 billion
By: Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars
This retro-inspired hit – and the retro-inspired music video that accompanies it – feels like something from the 80s even though it was released firmly in the YouTube era (2014). The infectious uptempo groove combined with the video’s catchy dance choreography and vintage flair make for a great video. It may not be the top hit on the list, but this video has had staying power that’s beaten out a lot of other popular music videos, such as Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” the first YouTube video to pass a billion views, which now doesn’t quite make the top 10.
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10. Learning Colors
Views: 5 billion
By: Miroska TV
Rounding out the top ten is this video teaching colors in Russian with the classic “Old MacDonald” song in the background. The quirky video, featuring smiling toy eggs filled with paint, has a catchy beat and kinetic sound effects that give it a unique appeal that has secured it a top spot amongst YouTube’s most-watched videos.
[Image credit: Techlicious]