Antares arrived with 8,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Nov. 8, according to Nielsen Music. Of that sum, 5,000 were in album sales.
“Billboard and Nielsen Music have been working to validate the accuracy and legitimacy of the sales volumes that were reported for Kris Wu last week,” a Nielsen rep said in a statement, speaking as Billboard’s data provider. “As with all instances when providers are unable to validate sales, Nielsen decides on a case by case basis whether streaming or sales activity is chart-eligible. In this case, we did not receive the required validation of certain Kris Wu sales for last week and have decided to remove all unverified activity for the week ending November 8.”
Wu’s sales came under scrutiny following the album’s Nov. 2 release, when his tracks quickly began dominating the U.S. iTunes sales chart, occupying the top seven song rankings. When Ariana Grande‘s new single, “thank u, next,” dropped the next day, Wu managed to block her from the No. 1 slot and maintained seven out off the top eight spots on the chart.
Wu may be a household name in China with a rising global profile, but this kind of success on a U.S. chart for an act who just signed a global deal with Universal Music Group in April seemed to some too good to be true. Soon, some began speculating Wu gamed the system to manipulate his U.S. sales.
The prevailing story — which was shared by Grande’s manager, Scooter Braun, after speaking with Wu and his team — is that the Chinese star held his release back in his homeland to coincide with his birthday on Nov. 6. That led to Chinese fans hacking into the U.S. iTunes store to purchase the album, hence driving it up the sales chart. Apple has not responded to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Wu’s label Universal Music Group says it’s “thrilled” with the global success of Antares, his first album from Interscope, Island Records U.K. and Universal Music China. And while there may be disappointment over the sales that did not count towards the U.S. charts, the label is taking the long view, looking forward to building his star power internationally.
“In its first week, the album has already been certified seven-times Platinum in China, where it’s currently the top album on the country’s four biggest streaming services,” said a UMG spokesperson. “With Antares, Kris Wu becomes the first Chinese recording artist to concurrently land in major industry and genre charts across the U.S., U.K., Australia and other parts of the world.”
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption as measured in equivalent album units. Units are comprised of traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).