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Sometimes, a moment is so extreme it can’t be left alone. It spreads all over the internet, bouncing from person to person in seconds. Nowhere does this virality happen more often than in the music industry.
If you’re interested in learning more about the most viral moments in music, you’re in the right place. Take a seat and get ready as we dive into some of the craziest moments in the song world.
1. The Fyre Festival
The 2017 Fyre Festival offered the opportunity of a lifetime, boasting a luxury music festival on a private island in the Bahamas, supported by celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Ja Rule.
It became one of the most viral moments in music when roughly 5,000 attendees, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on tickets, were met with chaos upon arrival – cold cheese sandwiches, scattered tents with wet mattresses, and more.
Fyre Media CEO Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival failure immediately went viral, appearing all over social media for weeks as he dealt with an onslaught of lawsuits that would eventually lead to documentaries.
2. Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road
Lil Nas X took the world by storm when he posted his song “Old Town Road” to TikTok, successfully promoting it as a meme for months. It spread, eventually hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning a remix with Billy Ray Cyrus.
Not only did the song “Old Town Road” go viral, but Lil Nax X’s career did, too.
3. It’s Friday, Friday
Singer Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” went viral in 2011, garnering 167 million views on YouTube and the most dislikes on a video in YouTube history. Unfortunately, along with the catchy tune and virality came harassment and bullying for then-thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black.
In 2021, Black released a hyperpop remix to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the song.
Related: 15 Worst Singers of All Time
4. U2’s Forced Download
In 2014, Apple made a strange choice – they automatically uploaded U2’s album Songs of Innocence to every Apple library. Over 500 million people experienced the auto-download when they opened their devices.
Naturally, the incident garnered tons of attention on social media, with most clamor between people who hated U2 and those who had no idea who they were.
5. Taylor Swift’s Rights Fight
In June 2019, it became evident that Taylor Swift was in a fight over the ownership of the masters from her first six studio albums. She set out against Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta, and Scooter Braun.
Musicians, scholars, politicians, and fans all supported her fight vocally on social media, inspiring a new conversation about intellectual property, ethics, and artists’ rights.
6. Kanye’s Interruption
Continuing with the Taylor Swift trend, you can’t make a list of viral moments without talking about Kanye’s famous interruption of Swift during the 2009 VMAs.
Naturally, the video appearance went viral on YouTube and other platforms for days.
7. Bella Poarch’s Lip Sync Fame
Bella Poarch is infamous for her uber-popular online videos, garnering millions of views for the simple task of lip-syncing. One particular song – Millie B’s “M to the B” – kicked her career off on TikTok in a few short days.
Poarch’s video to “M to the B” garnered 45 million likes in 2020, landing it the spot as the internet’s most-liked video. Interested viewers can now see the video of her famous TikTok lip-syncs on YouTube as well.
8. Gangnam Style
Who could forget the K-Pop “Gangnam Style,” one of the most viral moments in music? Psy’s creation shot off the charts thanks to the catchy tune and intricate music video.
“Gangnam Style” became the first video to hit one billion views on YouTube, and it held the top spot of YouTube music videos for weeks, something which can’t be said for many other artists.
Even to this day, “Gangnam Style” is one of the most popular videos of all time with an extremely high view count.
9. The Harlem Shake
The song “Harlem Shake” quickly became one of the most iconic dances in the world when it appeared in a music video with DizastaMusic. This video influenced a trend of videos featuring an excerpt of the tune.
The trend went viral all over YouTube and Instagram because the videos were short, simple, and easy for anyone to reproduce.
10. Call Me Maybe
Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” came out in 2012 and quickly became the song of the summer. The song garnered one million views in its first day of posting and hit one billion half a decade later.
Jepson’s song also inspired plenty of car lip-syncing imitations, including some from the U.S. Olympic Swim Team that also went viral.
11. Prince’s Death
Prince passed away in 2016 at 57, leaving behind a creative legacy. Many people grieved the artist – even those who were not fans of the man before he passed away. Prince went viral all over social media, with fans and friends sharing his music and videos of his life.
Related: How Did Prince Die?
12. Rihanna’s Pregnant Superbowl Performance
One of the most viral moments in music history in recent years was Rihanna’s choice to perform at the Super Bowl while pregnant. Not only were people unsure whether or not the singer was with child, but they also were astounded at her confidence, appearance, and dance moves.
Tons of memes and videos followed this performance – including ones about the baby feeling and dancing to the entire performance within the womb.
13. Left Shark
Katy Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl performance made an unlikely star out of one backup dancer in a shark costume. There were two – the shark on the right performed the choreography as expected, while the one on the left flailed around during the performance.
The aptly named “Left Shark” went viral, appearing over social media and becoming one of the most well-known Super Bowl incidents.
14. Michael Jackson’s Death
Michael Jackson’s death was an unexpected shock for the world, throwing off the balance of the world for at least a few weeks. On the day Jackson passed away, there was extensive confusion online about the topic.
On Jackson’s death day, Google was forced to return an “error” message as it assumed it was under some sort of spam attack, and Twitter experienced a temporary shutdown thanks to all the use.
Related: How Did Michael Jackson Die?
15. Janet Jackson’s Wardrobe Trouble
The Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show sits in infamy as one of the most viral moments in music. Justin Timberlake performed with Janet Jackson and, in a strange unplanned choreography decision, he tore away part of her top to reveal Jackson’s nearly bare breast.
The flash of nudity immediately went viral over news networks and other platforms, leading to plenty of discussion about indecency in broadcasting.
16. Walmart Yodel Kid
Of all the places to go viral, Mason Ramsey found fame in a Walmart. Someone recorded him yodeling “Lovesick Blues” in the store, and the media gained 25 million views in a few days.
Ramsey went viral and sparked a newfound love for Hank Williams’s “Lovesick Blues,” pushing it to Spotify’s Viral 50 chart.
17. Whitney Houston’s Death
One of the most viral moments in music history of the past decade was the death of Whitney Houston. Most people understood the tragic loss through alerts on their phones or social media, leading to millions of Tweets, YouTube videos, and Instagram posts from devastated fans.
For several months, Houston topped the internet – thousands of people pinned images of the singer on Pinterest, her songs topped the Amazon charts, and 10/20 of the trending topics were about her on Google.
Related: Whitney Houston’s Net Worth
18. Justin Bieber’s Career
In 2008, a young Justin Bieber uploaded just one video of him singing a song by Chris Brown (“With You”), and the recording went viral. Record producer Scooter Braun eventually came across the recording, and he, along with singer Usher, ended up signing the boy when he was just 13 years old, leading him to become a pop star.
As of the writing of this article, the video of Bieber singing has over 62 billion views, and he has since released several other hits on YouTube, like “Stay” and “Baby.”
19. Shawn Mendes on Vine
Not many music artists can boast that they started their career with 6-second videos, but that’s exactly how it went for singer Shawn Mendes. He performed cover songs by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, and they quickly became viral videos, launching his career in 2013.
20. OK Go’s Treadmill Video
Choreographing on treadmills before it was cool, Ok Go released a YouTube video that put them on the map. All over the world, people were sharing the video of the band members jumping from one treadmill to the other and effectively “dancing” on them.
Unfortunately for OK Go, even though their video remained viral for weeks and got several clicks and tweets, they failed to reach widespread fame from their viral marketing techniques, and eventually, they fell from popularity.
Due to some incidents involving various lawsuits, OK Go has removed the famous video from their YouTube Channel temporarily, though it was put back in place in 2023.
21. Rick Rolling
Last on our list of the most viral moments in music is a phenomenon that is still continuing today known as “Rick Rolling.” This trend started in April 2007 when several users of the online site 4chan created an April Fool’s Day parody video using GTA and the song “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.
Not only did the fake video go viral through the practice of “bait and switching” watchers, but it also caused the original music video to become a YouTube hit, gaining over 1.5 billion views. People today can still be “Rick Rolled” when someone sends them a music video with a different title which is really just Rick Astley’s original music video.
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