YouTube is not normally slow to announce milestones, yet six days after his fans rejoiced when Sony Music India said that Indian hip-hop star Badshah had broken the YouTube record for the most views in a 24-hour period with his new single “Paagal” (“Mad”), the video streaming platform has yet to confirm the achievement.
The video for “Paagal”, which was released last Wednesday on Sony Music India’s channel, booked 75 million views by 3 pm IST on Thursday, narrowly beating the 74 million views of the previous record holder, “Boy With Luv,” K-Pop group BTS’s collaboration with Halsey.
By the weekend, Sony had not only issued a press release marking the milestone but also released a print ad in which it listed previous record holders. Notably, the ad showed YouTube’s Play button logo but did not state the words “YouTube.”
Badshah acknowledged that he used paid promotions to draw more attention to the video, but denied they were “fake views.”
The rapper-singer took to Instagram on Friday, posting a story in which he said: “what some people call fake views are not fake views. They are google ad words. Its a way of promoting your video, we bought ad words all around the world so that people could see the video all around the world.”
He added that this was a common practice internationally. “You think artists abroad don’t get paid promotions?” he wrote. “Are you so naive? I don’t want to be the one with the highest views, but someone has to be. I tried and I did it. Get over it.”
US Industry magazine Billboard has repeatedly reached out to YouTube for confirmation of Badshah’s one-day record but the video platform has thus far declined to comment.
Shridhar Subramaniam, the president for Sony Music India and Middle East, told Billboard that the “video-first campaign” behind “Paagal” was part of the company’s “mission” to put “an Indian artist on the global map, somebody who is not so heavily linked to the Bollywood game, somebody who stands on his own rights.” To that end, the label put together a pre-release strategy that involved working with YouTube’s global editorial teams and TikTok influencers across India, Subramaniam said. He did not mention the purchase of Google AdWords in helping the song gain views around the globe.
Badshah, who is set to make his acting debut in the Hindi comedy Khandaani Shafakhana (Family Clinic) in August, told Billboard he was particularly pleased that the YouTube record was broken with one of his own compositions. Not counting a commercial for Pepsi, “Paagal” is his first non-film material since he put out his debut solo album ONE (Original Never Ends) in August 2018. “This is extra special,” Badshah said. “I always wanted an independent song to do such numbers.”
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Even if “Paagal” broke the one-day record, the song looks unlikely to add to its list of honours. The view count has slowed down and unlike the videos for “Boy With Luv” and Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie’s “ME!” (which currently holds the official YouTube 24-hour record for a solo artist), “Paagal” did not come close to doubling its tally by the end of the first week. “Boy With Luv” added a further 87.4 million views to its debut week total (162 million), and “ME!” an additional 63.8 million streams during its first seven days (129 million). Seven days after its premiere, “Paagal” had yet to reach 100 million views.