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YouTube in 2009: One Video That Ruled Them All

YouTube posted its year in review stats this morning and Susan Boyle’s singing performance was listed as the most popular video of the year. That video was, in fact, almost four times as popular as numbers two through five – videos including David After the Dentist, that insipid wedding dance and the trailer for the vampire movie New Moon.

With more than 120 million views, Boyle’s video demonstrates a lot of things about YouTube, now one of the world’s largest search engines. It’s an inspiring video that challenges expectations about gender and age with a story of personal triumph. It’s also something that traditional media pulled off better than user generated content probably could have.

The video has had embedding turned off on YouTube but it’s really quite compelling. It’s embarrassing to see how people talk down to an older woman, whose appearance falls outside of television’s definition of beauty. It’s moving to see her triumph in the performance. It’s bittersweet to consider that the television franchise souped up the video of her performance, turning a woman worthy of respect into a freak because of her beautiful, youthful voice and profiting handsomely while she went on to have psychological issues because of the resulting public pressure.

That’s what people on the Internet watched this year, though. That and a small child speaking under the influence of dental medication.

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