YouTube's billion-view club has a new member. Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again," recorded with singer Charlie Pugh for ludicrous action movie Furious 7, has become the tenth video to get more than 1 billion views on the video platform. The video is the second fastest to have reached the milestone figure after Psy's "Gangnam Style" ticked over a billion just 160 days after it was uploaded. "See You Again" achieved the same feat 184 days after being uploaded in April.
For ten years, only two videos — the aforementioned "Gangnam Style" and Justin Bieber's "Baby" — were able to rack up more than a billion views. But both took very different routes to YouTube's mountaintop. Where Bieber's "Baby" was a slow burner, taking four years to tip over a billion on a lazy upward trajectory that began when it was uploaded in 2010, Psy's impossibly catchy K-pop smash seemed like an outlier, earning its billionaire badge in record time through word of mouth, Facebook shares, and rapid memeing. But something changed this year. Eight new videos, including Taylor Swift's "Blank Space," Megan Trainor's "All About That Bass," and the ubiquitous "Uptown Funk," hit a billion views in quick succession. "See You Again," which memorializes long-time Fast and the Furious series star Paul Walker after he was killed in a car crash in 2014, is one of that recent glut.
Unlike "Baby" and "Gangnam Style" (represented by the two blue entries on the left and right of the graph above), new entrants in YouTube's top ten all have a lot in common. All eight videos were official releases that accompanied chart hit songs, each reached a billion views in fairly short spaces of time, each was uploaded after late 2013, and each hit a billion after June 2015. And they're getting faster at reaching that total. While the videos in YouTube's top ten took an average of 484 days to hit the billion-view milestone, that number is dragged out by the glacial pace of "Baby." The three most recent videos to reach the figure reached a billion in an average of only 241 days.
Eight videos reached a billion views after June 2015
It once appeared that nothing could beat the stratospheric rise of "Gangnam Style." The song was everywhere for a time — its video appeared on your Facebook wall, its memes cropped up on your Twitter feed, its horse-riding dance was performed by your parents. "See You Again," while undeniably popular, has had nothing close to the same cultural penetration — yet it came within 24 days of beating Psy's mega-hit to a billion views. "Gangnam Style" felt like it had earned its billion by becoming a truly global phenomenon, but recent successes have shown that music videos don't need to mobilize the entire planet to reach that milestone. They don't even need to mobilize the United States — YouTube Music Insights says Enrique Iglesias' "Bailando" got a third of its views from Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina alone.
Where next then, if 1 billion views is becoming an increasingly trivial figure for music videos to reach? 2 billion? "Gangnam Style," as before, leads the way, having hit that total in May 2014. For now, no other video comes close — "Baby" is stuck on 1.2 billion — but the recent surge in views suggests it won't be too long until something cracks the 3 billion barrier.