Music videos (including songs for kids) currently top the list of the most-watched category on YouTube. Canadian artist The Weeknd, for instance, recently released a music video for his song “Is There Someone Else” that racked up over 11 million views on YouTube in a matter of weeks.
Although the video sharing website is now the dominant music streaming platform - and a crucial marketing channel for musicians - music videos have been used as promotional tools since long before the ubiquity of the internet. The genre far predates the invention of video, in fact.
To assemble a list of the most iconic music videos, 24/7 Tempo viewed videos from sources such as YouTube, then used editorial discretion to choose those that had the most impact on the genre; were most notable for their social commentary, innovation, or interaction of different musical styles; have racked up the highest number of views online.
After “Bohemian Rhapsody,” music videos gained steam as a major promotional medium, but it wasn’t until the advent of MTV in 1981 that they became a driving cultural force. Aside from providing a venue for musicians to express their style and artistry, music videos quickly became a way to convey social and political commentary to a wide audience. (Here are 50 protest songs that made the Billboard Hot 100.)
Some videos, including Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” sparked controversy and inspired boycotts. Others, like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” have been parodied countless times and still influence choreography decades later.
Although MTV’s heyday as a showcase for videos is over, the music video remains a pervasive medium in the digital age. Over 300 music videos, including K-pop star Psy’s “Gangnam Style” have accrued more than 1 billion views on YouTube. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic / Getty Images)