Coldplay Didn’t Want ‘Yellow’ In ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Because They Thought It Would Be Racist
Director Jon M. Chu wrote them a heartfelt note about his own complicated relationship to the song.
No spoilers, but apparently one of the film’s biggest tear-jerking moments is set to a Mandarin cover of Coldplay’s nostalgia-inducing ‘Yellow’. It’s sung by Katherine Ho, a Chinese-American singer and former The Voice contestant — and it almost didn’t happen, because Coldplay were worried about potential backlash.
Talking to Quartzy (via Vulture), Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu explained that both Warner Bros. and the band were worried that, given the context of the film, ‘Yellow’ would be associated with the racial slur against Asians, rather than cowardice.
But that was precisely why Chu was so insistent on its inclusion, having had the slur used against him throughout high school.
“I wanted to take hit American songs and make them Chinese, to give audiences a sense of how we feel as Asian Americans,” Chu tells Quartz. “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.”
Chu convinced the film studio, but Coldplay were reluctant given their own dogged history with cultural appropriation. In 2012, the band were called out for their ‘Princess Of China’ video, where featured artist Rihanna appeared in orientalist garb. Then, in 2016, they received further criticism for their ‘Hymn For The Weekend’ video, in which Beyoncé wore traditional Indian clothing.
When they immediately rejected Chu’s request, he wrote them to explain his own complicated relationship to the song.
“For the first time in my life, it described the colour in the most beautiful, magical ways,” Chu wrote. “The colour of the stars, her skin, the love. It was an incredible image of attraction and aspiration that it made me rethink my own self image.”
He then wrote the cover would offer “a whole generation of Asian-Americans, and others, the same sense of pride I got when I heard your song.” According to Chu, the band gave him permission an hour after he sent the letter.
Listen to Katherine Ho’s version below. Crazy Rich Asians is in cinemas August 30.