Gaining that coveted #1 spot on the charts isn't always easy. Virality is unpredictable, hard work is overrated and clout can only get you so far. This is why artists have been known to employ more creative practices from time to time.
Watching Justin Bieber and his camp come up with ways to top the Billboard 100 hasn't been easy. As Roddy Rich's triumphant hip-hop hit, The Box blocked Bieber's way to the #1 spot, the Canadian superstar came up with a few tactics to topple his foe. He started by going directly to fans. On a rare Instagram Live stream, Bieber looked into his iPhone camera, asking fans not only to stream his new single, Yummy, but to purchase it. This was then followed up by an incredible list of instructions posted in a now-deleted Instagram post.
The suggestions included playing the song on repeat on Spotify at a very low volume, to buy the song multiple times through a link on Bieber’s website, and for his fans outside of the US to use a VPN to skew US streaming figures in his favour. VPNs or virtual private networks allow users to appear anywhere in the world, while hiding their IP address.
Just as expected, the act was met with much incredulity. But while Bieber's promotional tactics are a little unconventional, other artists have been employing similarly creative schemes too - here are some of the weird and wonderful ways artists have shone a light on their newest releases.
That time DJ Khaled faked a marriage proposal to Nicki Minaj
We all know that Nicki Minaj is now happily married Mr Kevin Petty but back in 2013 the world thought she was about to be Mrs DJ Khaled. In 2013, MTV News released a video of Asahd's father professing his love to Minaj. In the clip he admits the two have a lot in common with one another. "We're both suffering from success," he bemoans, a nod to the title of his seventh studio album, Suffering From Success. But this proposal came in July, months before the release of his record, so people were convinced it was the real deal. "It's so sweet," cooed Bonnie Fuller, the editor-in-chief at The Hollywood Reporter. Reports even suggested Minaj had been spotted wearing a diamond ring following the proposal.
Yet it all quickly became clear two months later that Khaled had pulled one over on all of us when his new single featuring Rick Ross, Future and Minaj, I Wanna Be With You, dropped. The song ranked #1 on the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles and peaked at #30 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs on the Billboard charts.
Kelsy Karter's temporary face tattoo that grabbed headlines
New Zealand singer Kelsy Karter made a startling revelation at the top of 2019: she had covered one side of her face with a tattoo of Harry Styles. Credited to LA-based tattoo artist Romeo Lacoste, an Instagram post in January showed off the ink in all its glory. "Mama look what I made me do," the caption read, although her mum wasn't the only one taken aback. Comments on the post range from flabbergasted to outraged. As news outlets picked up the story in droves, people were cautious and many questioned the tattoo's legitimacy. For what it's worth, many were thwarted by the sudden popularity in face tattoos, with everyone from Post Malone and Zayn Malik to Kehlani and Cara Delevigne joining in the trend.
On the day of Harry's birthday, Kelsy revealed that it was all a big hoax. It turned out to be a publicity stunt to promote her new single, Harry, and she released a video titled, How I Rocked The World For $300. "Every publication and news outlet in the world covered the story," she writes. "And more importantly the song." Harry garnered 1.5 million streams on YouTube.
Travis Scott, Kylie Jenner and Stormi joining forces
Nicki Minaj may love the spotlight but she isn't one for stunts. So when Travis Scott's promotion of his third studio album, Astroworld, included bundles with concert tickets and Kylie Jenner's public tick of approval, the Trinidadian rapper was none too pleased.
"Travis sold over 50K of these," Minaj tweeted with a screenshot of Kylie's Instagram of Scott's tour poster. "With no requirement of redeeming the album! With no dates for a tour, etc. I spoke to him. He knows he doesn’t have the #1 album this week." But Travis did in fact have the #1 album in the US, blocking Minaj who desperately wanted to top the charts. She then took aim at Kylie. "I put my blood sweat & tears in writing a dope album only for Travis Scott to have Kylie Jenner post a tour pass telling ppl to come see her & Stormi. lol. Im actually laughing. #Queen broke the record of being number 1 in 86 countries. Thank Jesus & thank you to my fans [sic]."
Astroworld kept the #1 position while Minaj's album, Queen remained at #2.
Post Malone’s looped Rockstar video
The rules for what counts as an official stream has changed a number of times as people have found ways to game the system. An artist central to Billboard's most recent policy changes is Post Malone. In 2017, the rapper exploited the rules with a looped video of his record-breaking hit, Rockstar, featuring 21 Savage. The video, which played the hook over and over for almost two minutes actually counted for a stream according to The Fader. Which means for every stream the actual song got, he got another one for the gimmicky looped version.
Rockstar reached the #1 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 as well as the top spot in Australia, Canada, Portugal, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the United Kingdom. It broke the single week streaming record on Apple Music with over 25 million streams. It also had the longest run at the #1 spot for a hip-hop song in 2017.
DJ Khaled's energy drink bundles
Another one! Because DJ Khaled always has more tricks up his sleeves. In 2019, Khaled took a leaf out of Travis Scott's book and bundled Father Of Asahd downloads with energy drinks. This wasn't an energy drink specially made for the release of the new album nor was it even a DJ Khaled branded soda, but just a run of the mill sugar-loaded fizzy drink. It was cheaper than bundling his record with merchandise or concert tickets like other artists tend to do, and something about this didn't feel right. Billboard felt the same way and disqualified any sales made from the bundle. Khaled was relegated to the #2 position on the Billboard charts, lagging behind Tyler, The Creator's Igor.
U2 force-feeds iTunes users their album, Songs Of Innocence
Where were you the first time you realised an entire U2 album had been uploaded to millions of iTunes users libraries? In 2014, Apple paid U2 a blanket royalty fee of $100 million to do something the band had never done before. Though, in a cruel twist of fate, the two conglomerates proved that you couldn't give away U2's music for free. Because once everyone realised they had unwittingly been force-fed the band's latest album, they were pissed. As the stunt turned ugly, Apple was forced to release a tool to remove the album from accounts, with a dedicated webpage providing step-by-step instructions.