#RSEssential10: Iconic Music Videos That Deserve To Join YouTube’s Billion View Club
From Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” to Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Crazy” by Aerosmith
With Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” becoming the latest classic music video to top the billion-view club on YouTube, we look at some other iconic videos of yesteryears and why they deserve to join the exclusive club!
“Vogue” – Madonna
Current Views: 148 Million
Perhaps one of the most unfortunate realities of today is the lack of appreciation for the body of music videos by Madonna. For a generation (or two), there was no greater female artist, and Madonna did more for the format than anyone for as long as she did. At the top of far too many songs to mention that deserves a billion streams is the singer’s 1990 classic black and white video for “Vogue.” I just don’t understand how one of the greatest videos of all-time is still lagging in terms of views.
“Sledgehammer” – Peter Gabriel
Current Views: 52 Million
At the time, there was nothing quite like Peter Gabriel’s brilliant music video for “Sledgehammer”. Not only did the video create a whole new world, it became an important reminder of the power the format. The experiment with different styles of claymation, pixelation and stop-motion animation proved groundbreaking, winning 9 MTV Music Video Awards in 1986; the most ever for one video. The video was always one of the first to help the song get more push and requests at radio, leading to Gabriel scoring his first #1 hit.
“Remember The Time” – Michael Jackson
Current Views: 451 Million
While “Billie Jean” has made the billion-view club and “Thriller” is likely one Halloween season away from reaching there, it’s quite shocking that “Remember The Time”—one of the most iconic and lavish videos of Jackson’s career—still hasn’t reached that benchmark. Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” featuring Juicy J which is heavily inspired by this video was the first music video by a female to cross a billion views, and it now has amassed over 3.2 billion views, and that too in just 7 years!
“Hungry Like The Wolf” – Duran Duran
Current Views: 15 Million
It’s possible some of the views disappeared as “Hungry Like The Wolf” has seemingly only been available the last three years on the platform, but 15 million seems like a disgrace for what could be one of the most-celebrated early music videos of all time. Unlike most videos back then, Duran Duran injected cinematic storytelling into their international tales, and this video proved the catalyst for myriads of copycats who took us into a whole different world.
“Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears
Current Views: 685 Million
As iconic as the song may be and as much as Spears has been in the news, it’s quite hard to believe that “Baby One More Time” has not reached the 1 billion view point yet. There’s probably no other artist in the last 25 years to have had their first music video be as celebrated or as heavily debated and dissected as this. For a generation that stood by the singer’s side with the “Free Britney” movement, it’s clear her impact has not been in the same way it has been for female artists in the years that followed.
“Kiss” – Prince
Current Views: 55 Million
“Kiss” by Prince is one of the most celebrated songs and instantly recognizable music videos by the artist. Literally hundreds of artists after him have tried to replicate the sensuality and style created in this bold video but the original unfortunately seems to have not reached the popularity it deserves. One of the greatest shames of the new metrics by which a song’s popularity is derived, we forget iconic songs like this and those that follow get all the glory.
“Rhythm Nation” – Janet Jackson
Current Views: 26 Million
I actually had to recheck the number of views because I was so shocked by how low the number was for this memorable video by Janet Jackson. “Rhythm Nation” and her dance moves are iconic, and it’s truly a shame to see that actor Joseph-Gorden Levitt’s tribute dance to Jackson on “Lip Sync Battle” actually has garnered as many views as the original!
“Freedom! ’90” – George Michael
Current Views: 109 Million
One of the first and most prominent artists to not be featured in their own music video, “Freedom 90” by George Michael was a celebration of art, fashion and music coming together in the most editorial way possible. The music video set a trend that we still see today—supermodels lip-syncing to popular songs. It’s a brilliant video and song just hasn’t received the love it deserves.
“Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’Connor
Current Views: 300 Million
Before D’Angelo’s iconic “How Does It Feel” (also missing from the billion-view club!), there was Sinead O’Connor’s equally and perhaps even more iconic “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The simple close-up of Connor’s face as she belts out the Prince-written ballad is just breathtaking. An entire generation teared up as they watched that one tear roll down O’Connor’s face. Vulnerability never seemed this powerful.
“Juicy” – The Notorious B.I.G.
Current Views: 436 Million
It’s quite shocking that no music video from The Notorious B.I.G. or even 2Pac factor into the 1 billion-view club. “Juicy” is Biggie’s most-viewed music video at the moment and it’s surprising that such an important song and video in hip-hop history lags behind like this.
“Crazy” – Aerosmith
Current Views: 597 Million
Aerosmith ruled the music video world in the first half of the Nineties. “Crazy”, the band’s first video featuring actress Alicia Silverstone became a runaway hit and their collaboration went on to become one of the most successful pairings. Silverstone would go on to become a movie star and Aerosmith continued to rock out, but video-wise, nothing beats this triumph.
All in all, the billion-view club on YouTube isn’t really representative of the biggest hits or even the most popular videos of the time. It’s unfortunate that as we change metrics and the market is constantly evolving, many iconic music videos are trailing behind, and these historically significant and often incredibly impactful pieces of work are not getting the appreciation or reverence they deserve.
While it’s been good to see songs like Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or “Take On Me” by A-Ha, or even “Sweet Child Of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses cross the billion mark, here’s hoping that some of these videos reach that deserving level of love again with time.