Plenty of singles become hits, but it takes a special kind of song to achieve that Internet era benchmark of “viral status.” People may love a tune, but there’s a hard-to-define quality in certain songs that primes them for imitation, tribute and parody.
Among songs that do go viral, there’s a related category that’s even more specific to the digital world: Fan-made videos based on a hit that become YouTube sensations in their own right.
With 2015 behind us, YouTube exclusively shared with Billboard the list of 10 Most Popular Fan-Uploaded Music Videos From 2015.
It might surprise some that although Adele‘s “Hello” spawned plenty of viral parodies, none racked up enough YouTube views to crack the top 10 (it did drop late in the year, however).
Instead, it was Silento‘s “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” that dominated 2015 on YouTube, inspiring two of the 10 most popular fan-uploaded music videos. The whip/nae nae — a dance so ubiquitous that even potential president Hillary Clinton was forced to do it — is the focal point of the No. 1 and No. 8 videos on this list.
Perhaps not coincidentally, both fan-uploaded takes on the Silento hit recast the hip-hop song in a kid-friendly context. The most popular fan-uploaded music video of 2015 features Heaven King and her dance crew — all children — adorably owning the viral dance (since then, the crew has also demonstrated how to “Hit the Quan” with similar viral results). The other Silento-centric entry on the list is a video that cuts up footage from Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked while “Watch Me” — modified to make the voice sound like a chipmunk — plays.
Kid-friendly fare pops up in four out of the 10 videos here, in fact. No. 10 is a video of a young girl’s dance recital to Aretha Franklin‘s “Respect,” and the No. 2 most popular fan music video of 2015 was the “real life” staging of Frozen‘s inescapable hit “Let It Go.”
Although not centered around children, another one of these clips falls into the “oh, that’s adorable” category, too. The “Best Marriage Proposal of 2015” video is a 365-day video diary set to Kanye West‘s “Only One” (a song that’s about his daughter and dead mother, but hey, it still sounds emotionally affecting in this context) and comes in at No. 9 here.
A sixth video on this list falls into the adorable/heartstring-tugging category, although it’s not fan-made in the strictest sense. The Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” video series (which also aired on TV) set to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘ “Same Love” feat. Mary Lambert appears on this list at the very high No. 3. That means more than half of the 10 most popular fan-uploaded videos of 2015 have to do with children and/or elicit the “awww” factor.
At No. 4 we have an entry in the “it’s funny because it subverts expectations” category: A policeman’s sassy “DashCam Confessional” lip-sync to Taylor Swift‘s No. 1 hit “Shake It Off.”
Another comedy clip came in at No. 5. Australian comedy trio SketchShe’s inventive “Mime Through Time” video – which found them exploring different eras through a cross-generational array of Billboard hits and costume changes — also made the list.
Only two videos in the top 10 are primarily centered on fan covers. L.E.J. — the French vocal trio that employs a cello and drum — mashed up the summer’s biggest songs and went viral in the process. Also, a cover of Foo Fighters‘ “Learn to Fly” from 1,000 Italian fans successfully coerced the band to perform in Cesena, Italy.
You can check out the top 10 videos below. In case you’re wondering, “hey, why haven’t the labels pulled down these fan-made videos featuring copyrighted songs?”, well, Content ID is the explanation. It’s the tool YouTube created to allow artists to monetize fan-uploaded covers, concert footage and videos that sample songs. According to YouTube, they’ve paid $1 billion since 2007 to rights holders.
10. Johanna channeling Aretha Franklin!
9. Best Marriage Proposal of 2015 (Warning: Will Make You Cry!) – 365 Day Proposal
8. Silento “Watch Me” (Whip/ Nae Nae) – (Alvin and the chipmunks)
7. Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters Rockin1000 Official Video
6. L.E.J – SUMMER 2015
5. Mime Through Time by SketchShe
4. Dover Police DashCam Confessional (Shake it Off)
3. Love Has No Labels | Diversity & Inclusion | Ad Council
2. Frozen Let it Go – In Real Life
1. Silento- Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) #WatchMeDanceOn