hen Kris Wu dominated the iTunes music charts in the United States earlier this week, many pop music fans in the states were left asking, “Kris Who?”
On Monday, seven of the top eight songs on the iTunes US store rankings were Kris Wu tunes off his new album, Antares. The only non-Wu song was Ariana Grande’s new single “thank u, next,” which had to settle for third place.
The rankings struck many as being more than a little curious. While Kris Wu is huge in China with more than 44 million followers on Weibo, he’s relatively unknown in the West with a mere 164,000 followers on Twitter. Quickly Grande’s massive fan base, called Arianators, began accusing Wu of using bots to cheat his way to the top.
Kris Wu sending his bots when thank u, next is about to hit #1 on iTunes pic.twitter.com/no8jGbaHsu
— R Sweetener (@arianaspilltea) November 6, 2018
Chinese bots put that Kris Wu boy at the top of the iTunes Charts?? pic.twitter.com/98QMWalper
— Rose IV Drew (@druenellie) November 4, 2018
A screen capture of an allegedly deleted tweet from Grande’s manager, Scooter Braun, was also shared online. Braun has claimed that the tweet, which accuses Wu of using bots, was made by a fake account.
By Wednesday, Grande’s single was on the top of the charts while Wu’s album and songs were nowhere to be found on the top 100 rankings, leading to speculation that he had been banished from the iTunes store.
Meanwhile, Grande liked a tweet which credited Braun with getting iTunes to crack down on Wu’s alleged shenanigans.
However, later that day, Braun posted a note on Instagram, declaring that he had spoken with Wu and believed firmly that the singer did not employ a bot army. Instead, Braun explains that Wu’s album was released last Friday in the US, but on Tuesday in China, in order to coincide with the star’s 28th birthday, leading to many of his Chinese fans heading to the American iTunes store to have a listen in the interim.
“He has never been removed from the charts on iTunes. That is false,” Braun wrote. “Those were real people from the US and international community and not bots like many have rumored.”
Awkwardly enough, both Wu and Grande are signed to labels under the Universal Music Group.
View this post on Instagram
Over the past few days I have become aware of an artist named @kriswu. Last night we had an opportunity to connect and talk and show respect. We learned of eachother since many rumors have come out about both us in connection to his newest release. Kris is a great artist who on a global scale is a star. 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 US Itunes. Once the release in China took place the fans had their access. He has never been removed from the charts on iTunes. That is false. I have never wished anything bad for Kris nor any other artist and those saying otherwise are wrong. Any fans of anyone I manage who are using this opportunity to spread any sort of division or racism are dead wrong and I won’t stand for it. The music community is international and no longer held by borders. Kris happy birthday and you showed yourself to be a global star. Glad we got to connect and speak and keep your head held high. This is just the first of many achievements for you. And for those using my name for false rumors now you know exactly where I stand. Keep it positive.
And indeed, posts by Kris Wu fan groups on Chinese social media show evidence of a mass campaign giving fellow meigeni, the nickname for Wu’s fanbase, step-by-step instructions on how to set up a US Apple ID by using a VPN in order to download and listen to Wu’s new album. The posts even tell fans how best to manipulate the system in order to boost the number of plays.
Though the alleged chicanery may have been carried out by actual people, not bots, this has apparently still been evidence enough for it to be determined that Wu’s album sales were acquired “fraudulently” and so will not count toward the iTunes sales chart that is reported to Nielsen and published by Billboard, according to a report today from Variety which cites insider sources.
At the moment, Wu’s Antares is nowhere to be found on the iTunes top 200 album chart while only two of his songs, ”Freedom” and “Tian Di” are in the top 100 songs, at #79 and #92 respectively.
And so, thus presumably ends the war between the Arianators and the meigeni, though it likely will be a long time before the scars finally start to heal… unless we get banging collaboration soon.