Before 2012, few people had heard of Psy and K-pop, Walk Off The Earth, the Bieb's Carly Rae cover, Lindsey Stirling or Belgium's Telenet. But that, Brad Wheeler points out, was before billions of YouTube viewers started clicking.
The Talent: Psy, a carefree South Korean who rode an invisible horse from in-country stardom to international ubiquity.
The Numbers: The quirky dance-rap single was released on July 15, and by Dec. 21 its charismatic video version had reached an unprecedented one billion Internet views.
The Appeal: Its upbeat and interactive nature was responsible for endemic reaction videos and high-powered attention. World leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who would likely never admit to fondness for Macarena or Cotton-Eyed Joe, copped to busting Psy-styled moves.
The Effect: Psy said his performance on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve would mark an ending for his smash hit, but Gangnam Style will live on as the vanguard of a K-pop wave that might include the video's diminutive, dancing sub-star, Hwang Min-Woo.
SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW
The Talent: Walk Off The Earth, an Ontario-based indie band, faithfully covered the Gotye smash hit from 2011. The quintet's 5 Peeps 1 Guitar video features the group solemnly playing a single acoustic instrument.
The Numbers: Uploaded on Jan. 5, by April the track had achieved Platinum status in Canada – 80,000 digital downloads – and the video has trended to the tune of more 143-million views thus far.
The Appeal: The song's hypnotic rhythm and the alluring single-mindedness of the monochromatic band was an artful counterpoint to vignettes of cute kitties and water-skiing squirrels.
The Effect: Walk Off The Earth signed a record deal with Columbia in February; the resulting four-song EP (R.E.V.O.) was released to relative indifference in October.
CALL ME MAYBE
The Talent: The star-crossed lovers Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez (and the perky actress Ashley Tisdale and boy-band actors from Big Time Rush) participated in a larky, mustached salute to Carly Rae Jepsen's cell-phone single.
The Numbers: Jepsen's official video would go on to grab 366-million online eyeballs, but it was the Bieber-starring parody video – unleashed Feb. 18, with 56-million views and counting – that came first.
The Appeal: By participating in a seemingly homemade spoof, Bieber, the pimple-free pop star, portrayed himself as a regular, fun-loving, music-happy teenager. "He's just like us," said millions of fans much less fortunate than him.
The Effect: Though the song was already a success, Bieber's seal of approval didn't hurt Jepsen, the third-place Canadian Idol finalist from Mission, B.C., whose number is now unlisted but who receives calls from Grammy and Juno people.
DUBSTEP VIOLIN: CRYSTALLIZE
The Talent: Lindsey Stirling is the violin-playing star of her wildly popular YouTube channel, Lindseystomp. This after the panellists of America's Got Talent in 2010 told the eclectically minded performer that her skills weren't marketable as a solo artist.
The Numbers: More than 41-million views testify to the charisma of a fiddling dancer in an ice-castle, even though the serene clip was uploaded at the time of year (February) when parts of the world were looking for less frigid diversions.
The Appeal: The music and scenery are breathtaking, with splashes of the reverberant and in-vogue dub-step genre adding to the appeal of the five-minute escape. The likable Stirling appears at the end, asking for feedback on her adventures in electronic music.
The Effect: Psy is not a one-off phenomenon. Stirling shows that, with a unique skill set, a performer can use YouTube to bypass the traditional music-business model. Ice, ice, baby, indeed.
A DRAMATIC SURPRISE ON A QUIET SQUARE
The Talent: The actors in this spontaneously activated action-adventure scene are relative unknown, hired by the award-winning Duval Guillaume Modem agency to shoot an advertisement for the Telenet television network in Belgium.
The Numbers: According to Unruly Media's Viral Video Chart, the 1:46-long clip, posted on April 11, is the second-most shared ad of all time, second only to Volkswagen's 2011 Super Bowl spot The Force. So far, it has racked up more than 41-million hits.
The Appeal:Candid Camera goes Mission Impossible-wild. A mysterious button placed in a middle of a sleepy Belgian square sets of a fantastic flurry of events involving ineffective ambulance attendants, hyper-dramatic music, a gunfight and gobsmacked passersby.
The Effect: A television network goes the if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them route. And, compared to this, most flash-mob videos – especially food-court chorales – are now passé.