Trending This Week on YouTube: The Clouds Part When Beyoncé Sings and Emma Watson Speaks

Here at YouTube Trends HQ, we live every day like it’s a live taping of The Streamys. This week on the Spotlight channel, we spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation of the strangeness of humans with these daredevil stunts, extreme selfies, and unexpected world records (raw onion-eating, parallel parking, and so on).

And here’s what else lit up our eye/brain system:

Beyoncé - “Young Forever/Halo”

Recently, being a fan of the greatest couple in the history of humanity has felt like a rollercoaster ride through a tunnel of mysteries. (Not easy, OK?) But watching this resplendent concert footage makes it all worth it. Was it the imagery of a stadium lit up by warm glow of a million iPhones? The home movie of baby Blue Ivy toddling around in a little Bumbo chair? The celestial opening chords of “Halo”? We don’t know, but we needed a box of Kleenex after watching this. Beyoncé: we can feel your halo, girl.

HeForShe - Emma Watson HeForShe Speech at the United Nations

The last time we thought about Emma Watson, we were probably shouting “‘ermione Granger!” in our best (worst) Cockney drawl. Now 24 years old and the U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, she gave a stunning, stirring speech this week to launch a new gender campaign called #HeForShe. Her honest treatise on feminism also dropped some seriously useful nuggets of wisdom: “In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt I've told myself firmly: if not me, who? If not now, when? If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope those words might be helpful.” Dare we suggest that the humble starlet has a magic touch?

Unbox Therapy - iPhone 6 Bend Test

With iPhone 6 fever at an epic high over the past month, it’s perhaps not surprising the biggest hoss on the range this week was this Unbox Therapy video in which, as advertised, a guy bends an iPhone with his bare hands. If you read the title, you got the gist, but that didn’t stop this clip from getting a whopping 35 million hits (making it the biggest hit of the month). Boi-oi-oi-oing!

KLM - Lost & Found Service

Dutch Airlines KLM racked up almost 5 million views this week on a video that profiles a beagle named Sherlock who trots around the airport finding (and returning?) lost property to unsuspecting travelers. While we were sure this was a gripping piece of cinema verité, it turned out to be a marketing stunt (that little hound is nothing more than an actor). While we're still confused by the brand strategy that sold this through, we can agree that cuteness in all forms is worth celebrating.

-- Claire Stapleton

Trending This Week on YouTube: Would You Date a Homeless Millennial?

Ah, autumn. The air’s as crisp as an apple, and the vids are as fresh as a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils (or something like that). On the Spotlight channel, we studied the mysteries of body language and hopped atop a wallaby in celebration of the Aussie invasion.

And here’s what else slaked our thirst for video refreshment:

Elite Daily - Homeless Millennial Survives By Picking Up Women Every Night

This piece of docu-journalism about a homeless kid and his decidedly millennial approach to making ends meet set the Internet aflame this week. Thought-provoking, strange, and totally dark, the video’s had 3.5 million views since it was published on Monday and is a breakout hit for the “Voice of Generation Y” blog (it’s their first video to crack a million views).

Race the Tube - Sprint

Superhuman feats are no stranger to YouTube. While there’s generally a strong chance that the human’s going to clinch the challenge (since it was, um, uploaded to YouTube), the suspense never ceases to get our hearts pumpin’. This week, a crazy runner took on London’s tube with a camera strapped to his head, and the result’ll will leave you breathless (or at least motivate a gym visit).

Sesame Street - Lupita N’yongo Loves Her Skin

Eternal kids fave "Sesame Street" sees grown-up numbers on their YouTube channel: their videos had gotten over 250 million views so far this year. They made a splash earlier this week with “Star S’Mores” (a lovable "Star Wars" parody), but it was Lupita N’yongo’s riff on skin with Elmo that captured our hearts. Check out more cute celebrity "Sesame" appearances (featuring the likes of Jon Hamm, Anna Kendrick, and Peter Dinklage) in this playlist.

Prankdialz - Pretending to be Humans of New York

Photographer Brandon Stanton has one of the most buzzed-about photography projects of recent memory with Humans of New York. The cultish HONY following was ripe for some good-natured ribbing, and this week, it came in the form of this prankster who hit the streets of Manhattan. But we’d never throw shade on the actual guy behind HONY: here’s his awesome story.

-- Claire Stapleton

Trending This Week on YouTube: What Is Ellen Twerking Doing To Your Brain?

And ... pencils down! This week, as the School of YouTube took over the hallowed halls of the Spotlight channel, we learned lots of things they don’t teach you in school and got a nifty guide to the human brain, among other cranium-tingling gems.

And here’s what else stimulated our senses:

AsapSCIENCE - 5 Crazy Ways Social Media Is Changing Your Brain Right Now

We can always count on AsapSCIENCE to put our minds to rest about such burning topics as “why are babies so cute?” and “what the heck is gluten?” But we have to admit, our phones froze in our hands and our feed-scrolling fingers went all tingly and numb when we watched this one about the pernicious effects of social media on the brain.

Oh My Disney - DuckTales Theme Song With Real Ducks

Is there anything more effortlessly wonderful than the “DuckTales” theme song? Yeah, we didn’t think so, either--’til we saw this. Oh My Disney, a kooky spinoff of the official Disney channel, threw some actual ducks into the title sequence of the beloved ‘80s sitcom. It had over 3 million hits in just as many days, scientifically proving both the enduring strength of ‘80s nostalgia, and the eternal cuteness of ducks.

College Humor - Everything That Will Kill You

It’s been a banner year for College Humor on YouTube: they’ve had almost 700 million views on videos so far, which is over 100 million more than they had in 2013 as a whole. This week’s hit is a macabre Edward Gorey-esque poem that animates some of the many things that can kill you today. Keep the yuks coming, College Humor!

The Ellen Show - Ellen’s Anaconda Video!

Our eyes never quite recovered from watching Minaj’s paean to the holy rotundness of her anatomy. And with 150 million views so far, it’s on track to be one of the biggest videos of the year. This week, as Ellen DeGeneres donned a pair of acid-washed shorts for a goofy Minaj-approved parody, for one brief, beautiful moment ... the world seemed to swing back into balance.

-- Claire Stapleton

#IceBucketChallenge videos hit 1 billion views

With videos of shivering people flooding social feeds around the world, it’s safe to call this the summer of the Ice Bucket Challenge. And what a summer it was: we saw epic stunts, epic fails, quirky twists and a whole lot of celebrities. We learned a lot about the strange connections between famous people (Bill Gates knows Ryan Seacrest?). The IBC craze even resulted in a couple of marriage proposals. And it’s all in the name of charity: on September 7, the ALS Foundation reported more than $110 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations.

The meme hit another major milestone this week, too: Ice Bucket Challenge videos have been watched on YouTube more than a billion times. That, combined with the volume of uploads, makes it one of the biggest video memes in the history of the Internet. Yeah, it’s that big.

The trend is also international. People from more than 150 countries have now posted "Ice Bucket" videos on YouTube, and "Ice Bucket Challenge" is August's top rising YouTube search globally. While 90 percent of videos came from the U.S. in the early days of the trend, within two weeks, the majority of IBC videos were uploaded from outside the U.S.:

As a charitable phenomenon, the Ice Bucket Challenge unprecedented in the history of YouTube. As a collaborative, participatory meme, it has a lot in common with last year’s explosive Harlem Shake. But it’s actually even bigger than Harlem Shake at its onset. In the first month after these memes took off, IBC has about double the uploads and three times as many views compared to the Harlem Shake.

Want to relive all the icy magic? Here are the most-watched IBC videos, ranked by views:

-- Claire Stapleton and Kevin Allocca