The MTV Video Music Awards first kicked off in 1984. The original producers of this awards ceremony thought of it as an alternative to the Grammy Awards. It was, if nothing else, far less traditional and more focused on youth culture.
The VMAs have generated some of music’s most memorable moments since, including Madonna and Britney Spears smooching, Miley Cyrus twerking on Robin Thicke, Lady Gaga donning a meat dress, Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift, Beyoncé revealing her first pregnancy, and Britney Spears dancing with a snake for “I’m A Slave 4 U.”
The VMAs have also nominated and awarded some of the best music videos of our time, including the videos for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
With any luck, this year’s ceremony on Aug. 26 will not only produce some iconic (and meme-able) moments but will also bring to light some of the top music videos of this year, enforcing some new all-time greats.
When MTV first started, it was a channel just for music videos. Now in 2019, it shows a whole lot more than that. The world’s primary source for video music consumption today? The internet. More specifically? YouTube. Without a doubt, many of the top-viewed videos on YouTube this year will make an appearance on the VMA nominations list.
Though others—especially those from Egypt, Mexico, and other parts of the world—may not, that doesn’t make them any less entertaining to watch. Which videos topped the rest on YouTube for 2019? Stacker used YouTube’s API data to pull out the music videos with the most views as of Aug. 1.
Though some of these viral videos may be obvious, others may surprise you. Some only feature solo artists. Others, entire ensembles. Some have wild, sprawling narratives, while others are more straightforward party videos. Their only commonality is that fans around the world ate these videos up.
Did your favorite artist or song make the cut? Read on to find out.
‘You Need to Calm Down’ by Taylor Swift
– Views: 102.4 million
– Premiered: June 17, 2019
Country-star-turned-pop-diva Taylor Swift released “You Need to Calm Down” as a pro-LGBTQ+ anthem during Pride Month. The accompanying music video features dozens of queer icons in a utopic trailer park setting. This includes the Fab Five, ice skater Adam Rippon, contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and Ellen DeGeneres.
However, the song angered many LGBTQ+ advocates, who said Swift hijacked this message of acceptance for profit, using civil rights as a mere fashion statement.
‘Robbery’ by Juice WRLD
– Views: 103.1 million
– Premiered: Feb. 14, 2019
What kind of wedding has spilled Hennessy, a goth couple, and a burning altar? One thrown by rapper Juice WRLD, apparently. In the video for this song detailing a love story fraught with hidden insecurity, Juice WRLD crashes the wedding, though none of the guests seem to mind much. This pseudo-romantic video was released on Valentine’s Day.
‘Paagal’ by Badshah
– Views: 115.6 million
– Premiered: July 10, 2019
The video for “Paagal” is pretty straightforward, with club scenes, dancers, and fast cars. It stands out most notably for featuring Playboy model Rose Romero. Indian rapper Badshah allegedly rose to prominence, in part, because of his use of Google advertising to promote this video.
‘R.I.P.’ by Sofia Reyes ft. Rita Ora & Anitta
– Views: 115.8 million
– Premiered: March 14, 2019
Songstresses Sofia Reyes, Anitta, and Rita Ora used a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, and English for this dance jam, showing off the heritage of the Mexican, Brazilian, and British singers. The video features plenty of dancing in lush environments, elaborate glittering costumes, plus close-ups of each singer during their solos.
‘Pop Out’ by Polo G ft. Lil Tjay
– Views: 115.9 million
– Premiered: Jan. 13, 2019
The Lo-Fi video for “Pop Out” is set at a house party on New Year’s Day. Though the lyrics talk about the pair holding up a party, the video merely features them dancing, popping Champagne, and kicking it with their pals. This song snagged the 20-year-old Polo G and 18-year-old Lil Tjay a spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
‘A Whole New World (From Disney’s “Aladdin”‘ by Zayn & Zhavia Ward
– Views: 118.2 million
– Premiered: May 9, 2019
Zayn—the pseudo-pseudonym for former One Direction singer Zayn Malik—has a big fan base. Double that with the fervor for Disney’s revamping of the song for the live-action “Aladdin” film and you have a smash hit. Zayn and singer Zhavia Ward aren’t exactly roleplaying as Aladdin and Jasmine in this video, nor is any sort of magic carpet featured. The two wear modern clothes in scenes shot throughout New York City.