On July 15th 2012, riding a wave backlash toward Justin Bieber and OneDirection, along with an absolutely captivating music video, Psy’s K-pop banger became a groundbreaker as the first music video to top a billion views on Youtube. While many scoff at how much of a meme the song is now, it still played a part in helping establish K-pop to western listeners. As weird as it is to say, BLACKPINK, Got7, and BTS are all running because Psy walked.
It has been ten years since the Billion View Club was created, and what used to be groundbreaking is now just another feather in the cap for record labels to flaunt, equivalent to the Gold, and later Platinum, album.
When considering the 300+ music videos that have been accepted into the club, one is greeted by a slew of songs that got their 1 billion views off of spur-of-the-moment popularity, rather than the significant staying power that it took to initially cross that threshold. Tracks on the list include Katy Perry’s one-two punch of Dark Horse and Roar, which served as the anthems for Upper East Side divorcee’s for the 2012-13 season. All About That Bass reminds us how toxic and annoying the body positivity movement could get. There are a few Eminem songs on here like Love The Way You Lie, Rap God, and Not Afraid, that legitimately make us what was in the water in the early 2010s that made people think that Eminem still had it. And then we have Despacito, a song we are still waiting on the sequel for, to this day.
While pop icons getting a major amount of views on Youtube is to be expected, what lowers the reputation of The Billion View Club are the groups that reached that plateau only to dip out immediately afterward.
MAGIC! cracked the list with their song rude about a guy who fails at getting his father-in-law’s approval to marry a girl, and just decides to do it anyway. James Arthur is on here with an acoustic guitar ballad so sappy it could start its own maple syrup company. Tyga earned membership surprisingly enough with a song that isn’t Rack City. Macklemore got a billion views by asserting that he wears your grandad’s clothes. Tones and I gives the playlist some pandemic flavor. Even French Montana is somehow on here. Yeah, when he’s not busy getting his ass handed to him on Wild n’ Out, he can make a song that gets over a billion views on YouTube.
What’s more alerting though is the lack of some of the greatest artists of this past decade. Pressing ctrl+f and typing in Kanye yields zero results. The same goes for Tyler The Creator. Kendrick Lamar is only on here for a feature with Taylor Swift. Perhaps this is sour grapes, but a world where Welcome To The Black Parade doesn’t have a billion views, but Silento’s Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) does, doesn’t seem like the most appealing one to be a part of.
What can be endearing though are the songs that did not have the benefit of newness to help them cross that threshold. Two songs like In The End by Linkin Park and Bring Me To Life by Evanessence went through phases of genuine-to-ironic-to-post-ironic appreciation, helping bolster their view count. 4-Non-Blondes managed to overcome their status as a meme-band to get even more views than the He-Man video that reignited their fame. Even the old-Coldplay makes an appearance on the list.
Overall, as is the case with most pop-music achievements, 1-Billion views is meaningless, just another metric that record executives can excitedly ramble on about at their next meeting to convince their shareholders that their music doesn’t suck. As YouTube gets bigger and more accessible, what will be more impressive is not the video that gets to 2-billion views, but the first non-music-video that finally joins that club.