YouTube.com/charts is the hub for high-ranking videos of all sorts. There, you can scroll through the lists of the “Most Viewed,” “Top Favorited,” “Most Discussed,” and of course, “Most Liked” videos on YouTube. PSY isn’t at the top of any of these lists, much less in them whatsoever, despite having 275,200,681 views and 2,760,023 likes. LMFAO leads the list of “Most Liked” videos with a clearly impressive, but still much smaller, 1,581,630 likes. Normally, you could chalk this up to some sort of technical glitch and move on with your life, but if you check out the screen grab captured by WhatHappenedToGangnamStyle.com, you see that YouTube used to account for PSY. On September 13th, “Gangnam Style” captured the title of “Most Liked” video on YouTube, even earning a Guinness World Record for the achievement. But seven days later, on September 20th, PSY’s video was scrubbed from the charts and is still missing. WhatHappenedToGangnamStyle.com has actually begun a petition on their site requesting the video be restored to its rightful place — or barring that, at the very least, an explanation of what is going on.
The Internet savvy have cobbled up a theory on just what happened to “Gangnam Style.” According to Michael Clifton, who operates under the YouTube handle, Agent of Doubt, the answer is payola.
“Look up ‘Evolution of Dance’… it has way more likes than anything on that list,” he said during a Skype call with NMR. Actually, I checked and it doesn’t, but Clifton is undeterred. “The list keeps changing, but no matter which videos appear and disappear, Psy’s (sic) video doesn’t take the throne.”
Clifton has a video posted on the WhatHappenedToGangnamStyle page where he details his observations of what exactly YouTube is up to. Though Clifton doesn’t think it’s as sinister and Machiavellian as record labels paying to keep PSY’s video off the list, he explains that record labels are likely paying to promote their artists up the list and YouTube is playing along.
The chief culprit involved in this conspiracy would then seem to be Vevo, the omnipresent online consortium that represents music from three of the biggest record labels around: Sony, Universal, and EMI. They are responsible for seven of the 11 “Most Liked” videos on YouTube’s “All Time” list, and they hold all six of the top spots in YouTube’s “Most Viewed All Time” category. Did people really watch Jennifer Lopez’ “On the Floor” video over 600,000,000 times? According to the YouTube analytics, they have.