Kris Wu Allegedly Cheated His Way to the Top of the Charts

Ariana Grande released her new single “thank u, next” recently, and something strange happened on iTunes: it didn’t hit number 1 in America. In fact, it was 4th, behind three tracks from Kris Wu’s new album, Antares. Yes, Kris Wu, the biggest name in American pop. Yeah, okay, I’ve never heard of Kris Wu either, but I hadn’t heard of One Direction until just before they broke up so it’s not really a surprise. But Kris Wu isn’t actually all that famous in the US.

Where he IS massively famous is Asia. Wu was a member of K-pop boy band EXO, who are a big deal. They were basically the biggest boy band in the world until BTS came along and dethroned them, but they’re still number two. But if he’s not that famous or popular outside of Asia, how did he put three songs ahead of Ariana Grande on iTunes when she is massively popular here?

The answer according to Variety is that he cheated. Kind of. It’s not really clear what makes it “fraudulent,” which is the word Apple used.

So how did this happen? According to insiders, there were several factors that contributed to Wu’s showing. First, his album hadn’t yet been released in China where the label purportedly purposely held it back so it could come out on Wu’s birthday, Tuesday, Nov. 6. Typically, albums come out on Fridays worldwide, as per the global release date change instituted in 2015. But in the U.S., it was already available on iTunes, released by Interscope Records on Nov. 2. What transpired was a classic supply and demand scenario where “supply in the U.S. met the demand in China.”

What it sounds like, to me at least, is a bunch of people in China bought his album from the iTunes store in the US, and Americans learned a very important lesson on their actual place in the international hierarchy. Oh, you thought American movies, TV and music were the biggest things in the world? Well, there are enough people in China willing to set up VPNs and American iTunes accounts despite it being a huge pain in the ass to obliterate Ariana Grande’s new single with this guy’s b-sides. Yeah, how do you feel about those tariffs now, guy? Still think that trade war is a good idea?

Still other insiders contend that Chinese fans were able to use VPN manipulation to access the U.S. iTunes store, noting that Spotify is not available in China, so it stands to reason that Wu devotees would resort to any method possible to support their favorite artist (Wu is also a graduate of boy band EXO), and that there are indeed that many diehards in the U.S. Still, the integrity of the iTunes store comes into question if such a VPN breach occurred. And an added anomaly: as soon as Wu’s album was available in China, his rank swiftly slipped on the U.S. iTunes chart to position No. 90. Where did all those U.S. fans go? (Apple declined comment.)

Now, I don’t know exactly what happened because if Apple wasn’t talking to Variety, do you really think they were taking my calls, but it seems like there really were that many people in China willing to jump through the hoops required to buy the album. I’ve done it to get early access to the soft launch of video games before, I imagine if I was a 14-year-old Chinese girl I’d be super stoked just to have made it through, but I’d also be willing to buy my favorite singer’s album on a foreign iTunes store. I don’t know why this is considered “fraudulent,” but you’ll be happy to know that Ariana Grande is now safely at the top of the US charts and away from that weird old man from SNL who told her he was 22.

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