When Ariana Grande‘s fans cried foul at reports her latest single, ‘Thank U, Next,’ was not topping the iTunes charts (despite being #1 on every other real time chart), Apple listened.
The result? An investigation was launched that deemed Kris Wu – a rising Chinese-Canadian actor and pop star – acquired his iTunes-dominating sales fraudulently.
Upon its release last week, Grande’s headline-grabbing single – ‘Thank U, Next’ (heard above) – immediately shot to the top of most real-time sales and streaming tallies…sans iTunes. Shooting and staying to #3, it was the only song on the real-time iTunes chart’s top 5 that was not owned by cuts found on the ‘Antares’ album by relatively unknown singer (by comparison) Kris Wu.
Wu, a household name in Asia, was arguably not well known enough Stateside to hold a single by an artist of Grande’s caliber at bay. The result? Her fans, affectionately known as #Arianators, cried foul. The move eventually caught the attention of industry insiders who launched an investigation that revealed Wu’s streaming figures were not sufficient enough to support such a vast margin of interest in his downloads.
…Wu’s album sales were acquired fraudulently and will not count toward the iTunes sales chart reported to Nielsen and disseminated by Billboard. The determination was made to “suppress those sales numbers” on Wednesday afternoon following patterns of high-volume purchases on iTunes, first of the explicit version of “Antares,” and then of the clean version.
In a statement early Thursday, a rep for Nielsen (which publishes chart data in Billboard) said the data is under review: “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.”
How did this come to be? Theorists believe interest from Wu’s large Chinese fan base was to blame. As his album’s release was held back in his native country his fans opted to use other means to secure the album. The result caused a skew in U.S. sales figures.
This theory was supported by Ariana Grande manager Scooter Braun in an Instagram post early Thursday, relating a conversation he’d had with Wu. “Last night we had an opportunity to connect and talk and show respect,” he wrote. “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. Those were real people from the US and international community and not bots like many have rumored. 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.”
With the recount in place, Wu’s not only been dethroned from the iTunes top spot where (as of time reported) Grande sits, but his songs are nowhere to be found in the iTunes top 100. Gives her a new reason to say ‘thank u, next.’