What Paul Walker and PSY Have in Common: YouTube Viral Videos

Credit: Morguefile

PSY’s “Gangnam Style” held the title as the most viewed video on Youtube for five straight years, giving many the impression that it could potentially do so indefinitely. It certainly seemed like it would take a monumental event of a video to out-viral the Korean sensation.

That’s why many were left scratching their heads in confusion when PSY was finally dethroned on Monday.

The now most-viewed video  “didn’t inspire any viral dance crazes, shatter any cultural barriers or attract the attention of leaders around the world,” according to Billboard. “So how did the video, set to a clip from the Furious 7 …[become] the all-time most-viewed video on YouTube with nearly 3 billion views”?

The video in question is Whiz Khalifa’s “See You Again featuring Charlie Puth.

The answer is actually simpler than you might think: it’s basic math.

“Gangnam Style” was released in 2015, when YouTube was just beginning to notice an “increasing pace at which videos were reaching the billion-view mark.” From 2015 to 2016, music users on the video-sharing platform increased 17% to a total of 1.2 billion. During that time, the number of music videos being streamed increased by 25% as well.

It took “Gagnam Style” 826 days to reach 2,894,026,649 views, which “See You Again” hit after less than a year (365 days).

Experts also point to Vevo as a platform driving more people to more music videos with suggestion algorithms as well as the contributions made by the ease with which videos can now be shared across multiple platforms. More records are, therefore, likely to get broken more and more quickly as users increase, algorithms get smarter, and sharing becomes even simpler.

“See You Again” has earned an estimated $2.9 million from its YouTube views alone for those who own the rights to the song.

If people thought “See You Again” was quick to claim the spot as most viewed video, the trends point to even faster take overs in the very near future. “Luis Fonsi and Daddy yankee’s ‘Despacito’…video has more than 2.5 billion views racked up since its release in January and [is] now averaging more than 20 million  views a month,” meaning it will more than likely replace “See You Again” in no time.

For fans of the Furious franchise, as well as those working on it, the video’s rocket-shot to the top is also a tribute to Paul Walker, the actor who died before completing the filming of Furious 7. “See You Again” is a tribute to Walker; its lyrics were inspired, in part, by the death of a college friend of Charlie Puth who perished in 2012 in a motorcycle accident.

The lyrics are fitting for the 7th Furious film, with Walker appearing in all 7: “It’s been a long day without you, my friend And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again. We’ve come a long way from where we began, oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”

Khalifa’s verse invokes a feeling that will be familiar to most people, that of not thinking something like a tragic death could happen to you or someone you know, then having to confront what it means when it does happen. “I know we loved to hit the road and laugh, but something told me that it wouldn’t last. Had to switch it up, look at things different, see the bigger picture.”

At the end of Furious 7, which “See You Again closes out, the words “For Paul” appear on the screen. Co-star and longtime friend Vin Diesel has admitted multiple times to breaking down on set and off when realizing that his friend is gone.

In fact, Diesel committed to making the 8th film in the series because that was a promise Walker made to fans. That was The Fate of the Furious which opened in April. “Part of Paul’s legacy lives through ever frame that we shoot,” Diesel told Variety in March, calling Walker his best friend. “You are reminded of this angel that was so integral to this concept of brotherhood for our millennium.”

From the song: “Everything I went through you were standing there by my side, and now you gon’ be with me for the last ride.”

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