What were the most watched music videos on YouTube in 2018?

Memeing of Life: The release of Despacito has launched many imitations

Reggaeton singer Ozuna was among the top 3 most watched artists on YouTube

Reggaeton singer Ozuna was among the top 3 most watched artists on YouTube

 

Some trends of 2018 were open for all to see; the return of beef, the profusion of weird YouTube Kids videos, the seemingly constant need for reality TV stars to advertise the same products en masse on Instagram. But other defining aspects of 2018 seem to have passed under the radar, none more than the surprising situation at the top of the YouTube music video charts.

Over 1 billion hours of video are consumed on the streaming platform every day, and while a lot of the talk this year has been on personalities who do livestreams, commentary videos, gameplay or daily video blogs, music videos are the most common casual reason for visitors to the site. According to 2016 numbers, music amounts for just over 4 per cent of YouTube content, but between 10 and 15 per cent of its viewership. In fact, each of the all-time 15 most viewed videos on the site are still big-ticket music videos, and the figures for this year are much the same, but with one alarming further qualifier; of the top 5 most watched videos this year, four are Spanish language songs by Latin American artists.

Garbled Spanish

While this might seem high, it’s even more impressive considering the position Latin music was in at the beginning of last year. The release of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s worldwide monster smash Despacito seems a long time ago, it was only January 2017. In 23 short months, it has not only reduced every wedding since to intermittent periods of screaming, garbled Spanish – it also became the first non-English language song to top the US charts in every category.

“At the start of 2017 there were five videos from Latin artists in YouTube’s Billion Views Club – today there are 41” YouTube confirmed ahead of last month’s Latin Grammies. “More than half of the top 100 most-viewed music videos of 2018 are Latin” they continued, “and eight of the top 10 most-viewed music videos of 2018 feature Latin artists”.

The top 3 most watched artists on YouTube for 2018, too, are Latin; reggaeton singers Ozuna (20m subs), J Balvin (18m) and trap artist Bad Bunny (13m). So what’s the cause of the biggest unsung story of the year? Much is due to the emerging potential of Latin American markets in supporting their own artists, but more surprising still is the crossover appeal of these artists in the US and elsewhere, where they still often outpace their English language counterparts. At a time when it seems the entertainment landscape is becoming dull and predictable, the unlikely story of 2018 is of a public willing to embrace the unknown in large numbers; just don’t expect them to sing each word too accurately. 

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