I had never heard of Despacito, until a friend looked at me in complete disbelief, as if I had just woken up from a decade long nap. I quickly googled the song, listening to it as I drove home from work. “This is really catchy”, I thought. So catchy that I started listening to it a few times a day. And it seems, so did other people. Luis Fonsi’s Despacito, featuring Daddy Yankee was published on January 12th 2017, on YouTube, and as of March 2018, the song has over 4.9 billion views, making it the first video ever, on YouTube, to reach the 4 billion mark.
There are three other videos that have crossed the 3 billion mark. The first is “See You Again” of the Fast and the Furious 7 fame, published April 6th 2015, and it crossed its 3 billion views on August 6th, 2017. It took the song a little over two years to garner this monumental viewership. The second is the South Korean K-pop “Gangnam Style” by Psy.
It was published on July 15th 2012, and became the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views. It crossed its 3 billion mark on November 25th 2017, taking a little over five years. The last video (as of now) is Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”, which was published January 30th 2017, and reached the 3 billion mark on January 7, 2018.
How do music videos gather so much momentum, catapulting themselves across hundreds of millions of views? The increase in mobile usage, social media use, and Internet penetration are some of the reasons. The number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019. As of 2017, the total global internet reach translated to more than 3.5 billion internet users worldwide.
This also explains why videos are going viral faster; some can argue that maybe it’s a better song, which is why it reached the 3 billion views faster, or it can be that more people are now connected to the internet, making videos like “Shape of You” leapfrog the time it took “Gangnam Style” to reach the same level of views.
With this ever-increasing access to online content in the last few years, apps such as Musical.ly, Genius, Patari, Twitter, SoundCloud Facebook have become venues of expression for users. They mimic, discuss, post, stream and share songs that are, or have been, popular, which ultimately leads most listeners to the mother ship – YouTube. Of course, we must not forget the role of true friends, who will pop culture shame you into embracing the newest hits, leaving you singing: “Come, come on now, follow my lead”.