A simple trick helped Kris Wu reach No. 1 on iTunes.
How exactly did a relatively unknown foreign singer manage to reach No. 1?
That’s the question of the week.
Last Friday, Kris Wu, a Chinese pop star, released his latest album, Antares. Almost immediately, his tracks took the top seven spots on iTunes. Then, once Ariana Grande’s latest single, ‘thank u, next,’ dropped on Saturday, Wu still remained on top – at least for a few hours.
That immediately raised suspicions. Everyone had one question for the former EXO boy band member – did you game the iTunes chart?
Despite signing with Universal Music Group, very few in the United States – outside of die-hard K-Pop and EXO fanatics, which definitely exist – have ever heard of Kris Wu. All of a sudden, right after dropping his latest album, the Chinese pop star reaches the top.
How exactly did this relatively unknown singer manage to hit it big stateside?
Furthering accusations of manipulation, major labels and entertainment companies frequently game the charts in Asia. So, it wouldn’t have been too difficult for Wu and UMG.
Nilo, for example, is a major star in South Korea. Yet, over the past few years, his star power has considerably faded.
At 1 a.m. on April 12th, Melon, a Korean streaming music service, suddenly registered thousands of Nilo streams. Six hours later, the streams all-but-subsided. But, they served their purpose – Nilo had reached No. 1 on Melon’s streaming charts. Despite releasing his last album in 2017, he managed to beat out EXO, Big Bang, and TWICE’s.
People quickly took notice, accusing the pop star and his label of chart manipulation.
Unfortunately, that’s just one example of many.
Chart manipulation has become so rampant in South Korea, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism had to implement a new measure – chart freezing.
So, could Kris Wu have done the same thing here in the US?
A simple workaround launches Wu to American stardom.
According to Scooter Braun, Ariana Grande’s manager, the explanation to the Chinese pop singer’s is actually rather simple.
Music fans in China absolutely love Kris Wu. However, Antares hadn’t dropped in the county until November 6th, four days after its US release. The Chinese release date coincided with his birthday.
So, to download his latest album, they did what any desperate fan would do. Using VPN technology, thousands of clever Chinese fans downloaded Antares from U.S. iTunes.
On his Instagram page, Braun explained,
“It was explained to he and I last night that because his release was held back in China for his birthday his fans went and got the music any way they could and that was U.S. iTunes. Once the release in China took place the fans had their access.“
However, Billboard may not ultimately count the downloads.
In a statement, Nielsen Music wrote they have undertaken an investigation into the legitimacy of the streams.
“Billboard and Nielsen Music are working closely to ensure both the accuracy and legitimacy of the sales volumes being reported for Kris Wu this week. We capture data from a number of sources including streaming, radio and retail, allowing us to validate the accuracy of sales and playback information as well as identify anomalies. As we do with all reports when irregularities are noticed during the normal weekly validation process, we work closely with our partners to address the issue, which may result in excluding any irregular or excessive sales patterns, prior to charts being finalized.”
Featured image by Kris Wu (YouTube screengrab).