The 10 Best Viral Videos of 2012 (and ‘Gangnam Style’ isn’t #1)

How’s this for a 2012 year-end surprise: a best viral videos list where “Gangnam Style” isn’t number one. Yup, that’s the kind of hard-charging, ball-out free thinking we support here at NMR. So take this list, watch everything you haven’t seen, and then debate it. Hate me, hate my list and invalidate my opinion because I didn’t put “Gangnam Style” at number 1. But just remember that in a couple years, when “Gangnam Style” is more tired and played out than the Macarena, you’ll still be laughing (and wincing) at my number one choice every time you see it.

Yes, I realize there are a lot of good candidates this year, and several that I left off the list (the Bane outtakes anyone?) that I, in the moment, called “the best thing of all time.” Well, it’s the holiday season now, and time for sober reflection. Some didn’t make the list because they were also-rans in a strong category. Not everything can be a music video, just as not everything can be a fat guy doing something embarrassing. Even a list I make deserves to have some feel-good bullshit on it. So here, in descending order, is my finalized list of the 10 best YouTube videos in 2012.

10. The Jew-Hating Elmo of Central Park

Sometimes a video title catches you by surprise, and you think, “This can’t possibly live up to my sudden expectations.” And yet, somehow, this does. Although it’s filmed in vertical format with those obnoxious black bars, a racist in a Sesame Street costume trumps all technical issues.


9. A Dramatic Surprise on A Quiet Square

It is a somewhat controversial choice to include an advertisement on the list of best viral videos, but when it is an ad this cool, I am going to do all I can to promote it. See, if shit like this goes big, then other advertisers catch on and we get many more innovative and exciting ads. This is the sort of thing that could save television from TIVO and continue making YouTube profitable. Always play ads like this and we won’t skip them. Simple as that.


8. Isaac’s Live Lip Dub Proposal

Every year it seems as if there is almost a formula for viral videos: a great song that everybody either parodies or lip syncs to, a video of someone doing something balls out and succeeding, a video of someone doing something balls out and failing, and finally, a novel marriage proposal. This year’s proposal came courtesy of a guy named Isaac who proposed to his girlfriend via the back of a Honda, a good tune, and a “cruise down memory lane.” Cute stuff. Not cuter/better than the other stuff on my list, but still good. I’m just glad I got married before my wife saw this and realized what a fucking dong bag of a significant other I am.


7. 81 Sliced Bottles w/ Will Keith

When people are all filled out like a Butterball turkey and still make YouTube videos, I will tune in every time — mostly because they have created this bizarre fantasy world for themselves that helps them cope with the misery of being overweight. I know this because in my fantasy world my back doesn’t hurt and that bag of chips was mistakenly only half-filled to begin with. Take this cat Will Keith — in his world he is a badass ninja motherfucker. And healthy water is his enemy. I bet he drinks clear Gatorade to help him cool off after his sword “workout.” Destroying the one thing that can possibly save his life — how ironic.


6. Jurassic Park Melodica

No video this year caught me by as much delighted surprise as this one did. Until this video came out, the internet only seemed to be filled with virtuosos and musical prodigies who could bang out complex rhythms with nay but butter tubs. I almost didn’t click on this link when I saw a guy advertising that he’d learned the “Jurassic Park” theme. Goddamn, I’m glad I did.


5. Call Me Maybe (Steve Kardynal edition)

This song actually came out in 2011, but it became prolific for the sheer number of videos online of people aping it. It’s feel-good and pop-y as hell. But the best of the imitators was this guy, Steve Kardynal, who took to Chatroulette in drag to scare the hell out of a few trolls. It doesn’t hurt that — I’ll say it — he’s got a passably hot ass.


4. The Screaming Sheep

If I was less socially conscious, I would make this the number one video of the year. This is my number one video personally, and the one I would watch over and over if I could only watch one. But like anything else, this list is predicated on politics, and I must bow to the realization that just because I think something is the best, doesn’t mean it actually is the best. Still, it is beautiful, hilarious, and perhaps best of all: short.


3. Kony 2012

Take everything I just said about entry #4 and reverse it. Long, dark and serious, Kony 2012 stirred up the blood in America like few other things have in the last decade. Unfortunately, very much like normal in America, the passion cools quickly. While this video has been viewed 94 million times, old Joe Kony is still at large, and allegedly the campaign against him is scheduled to come to an end at the close of this year. Many, many fewer people than expected participated in the call to arms that the video pushed for, which ultimately weakened the movement. So maybe this isn’t the poster child for activism that we all thought it was. Still for that week in March, this video was the shit.


2. “Gangnam Style”

What can I possibly say about this video that I haven’t already said in at least 20 different articles this year? 2012 is PSY’s world, we’re just living in it. And while I had the “audacity” to not list it as number one in a year when it became the most viewed online thing of all time, please take note: the song is good, the video is good, it’s fun to dance to at weddings. But at some point, we’ve got to move on people.


1. Cannonball on Ice

This represents the best video of YouTube in 2012 because it embodies everything that is right about YouTube. It isn’t some slickly produced song, or an ad for anything (other than maybe the dude’s freaky German band…), it is just some buddies having a good time with a camcorder (and probably a few beers). That bone-crunching hilarity ensues is only secondary to the sweet message that this is how life is going to be in the Digital Age. I can only imagine that as we move that much further into it, we’re going to get more hilarious and wild happenings. 2013 should be pretty damn good for the internet.

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