From Gangnam Style to Nick Clegg’s apology song: The top viral videos of 2012

George Arnett gives a rundown of the top viral videos of this year.

Gangnam Style

Earlier this year Gangnam Style became the most viral video of all time, gaining more YouTube views that internet stalwart Justin Bieber’s Baby. K-Pop musician Psy’s song mocking the pretentious lifestyle of people living in the Korean city of Gangnam proved a surprise success story. It rocketed Psy into American pop culture, bringing appearances on Saturday Night Live, at a White House concert and alongside MC Hammer at the American Music Awards.

Psy has inspired dances by schoolboys at Eton, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon among other. The Korean artist’s past came back to haunt him last week when a clip emerged of him rapping lyrics calling for the death of US soldiers. But with Gangnam Style now approaching one billion views on YouTube, there seems no stopping him.

A dramatic surprise on a quiet square

What do you do when you see a giant red button in the middle of a suburban town with a sign above it saying “Push to add drama”? Push it. The residents from this Belgian town who were brave enough to do so had an action movie sequence brought to life in front of their eyes. Secret agents, shoot-outs and an American football team all feature in this stunt organised by a Belgian TV channel.

Britain’s Got Talent opera duo: Charlotte & Jonathan

Whilst not having the viral impact of Susan Boyle, Jonathan, a grungy kid with Brian May hair and a cracking voice, was the biggest YouTube hit from this year’s Britain’s Got Talent. His partnership with friend Charlotte now has almost 27 million views. It trounced dancing dog Pudsey, even though cute animals are a recipe for YouTube success. Charlotte and Jonathan’s debut album Together did not fare quite as well, it peaked at a respectable fifth in the UK album charts.

Sesame Street: Share it Maybe

Although Carly Rae Jepsen’s original fared better in number of views, it was the cover from a Sesame Street character that inspires most. The surreal quest of the Cookie Monster to find a cookie in a US office is upbeat fun. Everything about it, including the title, is imploring us to share the clip with our friends. I particularly like the monster’s cooler-than-thou drummer.

Catch the Ice Dude

Diving into frozen ice is never a good idea, as this man painfully finds out – 22 million viewers at the time of writing have seen him fall flat on his face. I would have been more concerned if he had actually gone through – horror movies have taught me that ice cold water freezes over your head.

Kony 2012

American charity Invisible Children Inc. was behind this piece of YouTube activism, attempting to bringing attention to the crimes of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony – notorious for recruiting child soldiers. The half hour long documentary presented optimistically by Invisible Children founder Jason Russell amassed 94 million views and a hell of a lot of criticism as well. This is not particularly surprising when you consider it advocates sending a US task force into Uganda to sort the situation out. Jason Russell did not handle the pressure well; he suffered a very public breakdown, streaking through the streets of San Diego.

The Bark Side

Ten dogs, one dressed in a rudimentary Darth Vader costume, bark out the theme tune to Star Wars. A deceivingly impressive feat. Chewbacca and the Wookies would have been proud of their furry brethren. It’s an advert made by Volkswagen and was shown in full during this year’s Superbowl. For other Star Wars viral fun, try Luke PSYwalker being tempted by the dark PSYde.

Testosterone fuelled stag chases man in Bushy Park, London

The spiritual successor to the deer-chasing antics of Fenton the labrador, this clip sees a man in Bushy Park, South West London getting on the wrong side of a stag. Luckily, he has a tree in the way to stop the male deer’s attempts at charging him. It gets really scary when the animal turns to roar into the air, proving that there are some British creatures that are not to be messed with.

Extremely Scary Ghost Elevator Prank in Brazil

Unassuming Brazilian people enter a lift, the lights go off and a corpse-like little girl appears screaming at them. This Shining style prank is terrifying to watch, so imagine living through it. It’s from the Brazilian show Programa Silvio Santos. Their follow up with two pallbearers accidentally leaving a coffin in a lift is equally mean. It makes Beadle’s About look like child’s play.

Isaac’s Live Lip-Dub Proposal

Bruno Mars becomes the poignant soundtrack for the titular Isaac’s wedding proposal to his girlfriend.  Convinced to sit in the back of Isaac’s brother’s car, the unnamed girlfriend is treated to a parade style dance by friends lip-syncing to I Think I Want To Marry You. The sweet, but naff acting of some of the cast really adds to the effect. Nevertheless I defy anyone to turn a marriage proposal down if it’s done through the medium of half-decent musical dance routines.

James Bond escorts The Queen to the opening ceremony

The London Olympics coincided with both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the golden anniversary of the James Bond film franchise. It is perhaps unsurprising then that this coming together of two British icons helped make Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony such a hit. Her Majesty’s final stunt may even trump Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner. Other great virals that emerged out of the games included the emotional response of South African Olympic dad Bert Le Clos to his son Chad’s victory in the swimming pool.


An odd craze that emerged out of Newcastle University, Milking consists of, students pouring full bottles of milk over their heads. My biggest worry is whether the suits that some of them wear are machine washable. It got parodied by students from a few of other universities, including Durham’s “Porting” and St Andrew’s “Champagning” – both widely condemned by student bodies for adding to images of elitism.

The Nick Clegg Apology Song : I’m Sorry (The Autotune Remix)

When Nick Clegg decided to apologise for breaking the Liberal Democrat’s promise to oppose a rise in tuition fees, satirical website The Poke naturally created an auto-tune remix. It followed up the site’s equally brilliant Leveson: The Musical and came to define the party’s 2012 conference. T-shirts were sold and the song even had an (unsuccessful) chart run. However, the most awkward result of its success was Clegg himself being forced to watch it on the Andrew Marr Show.

Arrested Drunk Guy Sings Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Drunken antics always play well in the viral video charts. We recently had a businessman walking the wrong way down a London Underground escalator. However, the sozzled champion of this year must be the man detained by Canadian police for intoxication. His protest does not get him far so he decides the best thing to do is sing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Over nine million people have watched his rendition and, before you level accusations of viewers exploiting his drunken state, he posted the video onto YouTube himself.

Felix Baumgartner – Red Bull Stratos

Even though Psy’s Gangnam Style broke the record for YouTube views, the real epoch change came courtesy of an Austrian man skydiving from space. Felix Baumgartner sound-barrier breaking fall from 39km, broke the record for people simultaneously watching a live YouTube broadcast. The stunt, paid for by drinks company Red Bull, drew eight million viewers and some on Twitter made comparisons to the Moon landing. Even if that is a bit over the top, it was still one giant leap for this man.

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