How a Mandarin Cover of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ Showed Up in Crazy Rich Asians

Photo: Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and RatPac-Dune Entertainment LLC

If you found yourself sobbing at the end of director Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians, you’re probably already familiar with the final song on the movie’s soundtrack, a Mandarin cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow.” Sung by Chinese-American singer Katherine Ho, a former contestant on The Voice, Chu knew it would be the perfect track to close the film. “That crazy blend of identities and cultures that makes up who we are. It felt to me like a critical part of what we were trying to do,” he says in an interview with Quartzy. To get a Chinese version of “Yellow,” however, Chu had to convince both Warner Bros. and Coldplay to get onboard with, well, the term “yellow.”

According to the director, the studio initially balked at using the song, which Chu wanted specifically because of the negative racist connotations the color evokes as a slur against Asian and Asian-American people. “They were like, ‘Whoa, we can’t do that, what do you think people will say?’ And I told them, ‘Well, a white director couldn’t do it,’” he explains.

And while Warner Bros. eventually got onboard, Coldplay was reportedly a harder sell. As Quartzy points out, the band has in the past been accused of appropriation for 2012’s “Princess of China” with Rihanna, the video for which featured martial arts and a mishmash of other Asian imagery, and 2016’s “Hymn for the Weekend” with Beyoncé, in which the band visited India for the Hindu festival of Holi. Coldplay rejected the director’s “Yellow” request.

So Chu decided to lay out his feelings about the song in a letter to the band. “For the first time in my life, it described the color in the most beautiful, magical ways,” he recalls writing. “The color of the stars, her skin, the love. It was an incredible image of attraction and aspiration that made me rethink my own self-image.” The band replied within an hour (of course they did, come on!) and gave Chu the go-ahead, and so cinema history was made. We can only assume front man Chris Martin spent that entire hour weeping before finally recovering enough to see the keyboard, because, really, who loves love more than that guy?

How Crazy Rich Asians Got That Mandarin Cover of ‘Yellow’