For the last few years now, YouTube published a “Rewind” video in December to sort of “summarize” the year on YouTube.
I have always loved watching the recap video. It’s filled with music, TV, movie, and homegrown YouTube celebrities sort of “re-creating” some of the most popular moments of the year.
Here it is:
I understood the video more this year than I ever have before because I’ve been doing a lot of personal research into YouTube culture. I’ve made a point to follow some of the most influential YouTubers in different genres of content in order to study them and see what works and why.
I would start my own YouTube channel to get some personal experience, but I can’t stand watching myself on video, so even if I did learn to edit video, I wouldn’t last long.
According to a combination of views, engagement, and searches, here are the 10 videos YouTube lists as its top 10 global videos of the year (excluding music videos), with some thoughts from me:
(Warning: some videos contain language and images unsuitable for children or others.)
1. Adele’s Carpool Karaoke
Adele is one of the Western world’s most popular stars of the last few years, and the only part of James Corden’s late show to gain any notoriety has been his Carpool Karaoke sketch. This video was a big hit, propelled by Adele’s newest album release and the fact that James Corden can really sing.
This video shows us: star power is unmatched on YouTube.
This is the goofy video of the year. Before people realized you could make a living off of real, good content on YouTube, this is what viral internet videos consisted of. Fun video. I have heard about this video for a long time, but watched it for the first time this week. I expected the video to be much longer. (This longer version is kinda more of what I expected.)
This video shows us: there is still room for the goofy, nonsensical, one-minute video on YouTube.
3. What’s Inside a Rattlesnake Rattle?
This sort of “discovery” genre is one of my very favorite on YouTube. I think videos like this show how YouTube isn’t just a place for celebrities or goofy videos like Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen, but that YouTube is also a place of discovery and education.
This video shows us: interesting, science-y, educational videos have a big space on YouTube. It’s not all juvenile stuff.
4. Nike Football Presents: The Switch
This video definitely owes its slot on this list to the global popularity of soccer (football) and the god-like popularity of Cristiano Ronaldo. Also, it’s a really funny Freaky Friday-like video.
This video shows us: Nike is really good at marketing, and that some people can tell better stories in five minutes than others can in feature-length movies.
5. Grace VanderWaal on America’s Got Talent
This girl was heralded on America’s Got Talent as “the next Taylor Swift.” I don’t like thinking of musicians as imitations of other musicians, but I was thinking the same thing before they even said it on the show. When this happened, back in June, I was curious, so I did some digging. Grace actually had a rather active YouTube channel before she was on America’s Got Talent, and it was clear she was very talented. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was sort of a “plant” to boost the show’s profile.
This video shows us: American Idol may be gone, but talent shows can still go viral.
6. Water Bottle Flip Edition
Ok, so the original water bottle flip video is hilarious. It is much better than the Dude Perfect one above. But, when you already have 14 million subscribers on YouTube, your version of a viral video phenomenon is going to get more notoriety than the original.
This video shows us: famous people can take normal people’s ideas and get more attention with them.
7. Channing Tatum & Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)” vs. Jenna Dewan-Tatum’s “Pony” | Lip Sync Battle
A star-studded lip sync video that features two attractive people acting like they’re at a strip club is basically YouTube gold. Also, it features Beyoncé, which means I need to include the word “slay” in this someplace.
This video shows us: sex is still popular, and people love Beyoncé.
8. Donald Trump: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
No story gripped the United States like Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential election. This video of John Oliver roasting Donald Trump in February was one of countless late-night hosts going after the president-elect long before he won the nomination and the White House. It was really interesting to go back and watch this video now.
This video shows us: the Donald Trump phenomenon gripped us throughout the entirety of 2016. This video was made in February. Crazy.
9. THE $21,000 FIRST CLASS AIRPLANE SEAT
Casey Neistat is one of the famous YouTubers I have been watching a lot in the last eight months or so. This video was really interesting because who wouldn’t wonder what a $21,000 airplane seat would be like?
This video shows us: people who live extraordinary lives are really interesting to people who don’t.
10. Brothers Convince Little Sister of Zombie Apocalypse
This, along with Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen, is the epitome of a good YouTube video to me. It was one of my very favorite videos of 2016.
This video shows us: the organic YouTube video is not dead, and that this sister has the best brothers on the planet.