How a USC Freshman Got to Reinvent a Coldplay Song for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

In February, USC freshman Katherine Ho received a text from a former voice teacher asking if she wanted to submit a demo for an unnamed TV and film project. Six months later, her vocals can be heard in “Crazy Rich Asians,” which has now amassed over $86 million at the box office.

How did it come to be?

According to the Los Angeles Times, the members of Coldplay had already declined permission to use the song in the film, which centers around an Asian-American woman trying to fit in with her wealthy boyfriend’s family in Singapore. But director Jon Chu wrote them letter, explaining the history of Asian representation in pop culture, and how “yellow” was traditionally used in a negative connotation. To reclaim the word, the song could be sung in Mandarin — which is where Ho came in.

The 19-year-old, hailing from Woodland Hills, is a lifelong singer who is minoring in songwriting at USC and has performed on the NBC singing competition show “The Voice.” When her former voice teacher contacted her, she said he was looking for a young girl who could sing Mandarin, and Ho had grown up speaking it at home.

When preparing the demo, Ho stayed up late to work with her dad on the phone, going line by line until she got the meanings and inflections of the Mandarin lyrics for “Yellow.”

“I actually fell asleep at the piano and woke up the next morning and recorded it before class,” Ho told the paper.

She got the job, but she still didn’t know what her part would be used for. It was only an hour before her session at a Burbank studio that the studio team called to tell her the song was for “Crazy Rich Asians.”

“I freaked out in the car with my dad, who was there to help me with the dialect stuff,” Ho recalled. “After I found out it was going to be played at the very end of the film, it freaked me out even more.”

The film’s production team wanted to use the song toward the end of the film, and originally debated hiring an established singer to perform “Yellow,” but Chu loved Ho’s voice, says Gabe Hilfer, the film’s music supervisor.

A few days later Ho was in the studio, and a few months later, she saw the movie at an early screening and heard herself “put a Mandarin twist on one of my all-time favorite songs.”

In the past, Ho and her friends didn’t feel proud to call themselves “yellow,” because it held such negative associations, she said. “It’s really cool that this word — yellow — and the song have a deeper meaning past just the plot of the film.”

More Music

  • Madonna

    Madonna's Madame X Tour Adds New York, Chicago and L.A. Dates

    Madonna has added additional shows to her upcoming Madame X tour. Nine newly booked dates have been announced for New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Queen of Pop adds five additional New York concerts at the Howard Gilman Opera House, which will take place between Oct. 2 to 7; two extra shows will take [...]

  • Doug Davis and Jodie ShihadehVariety Power

    Jodie Shihadeh Named Partner at The Davis Firm

    Jodie Shihadeh has been named Partner at The Davis Firm, PLLC. She joined the firm in 2011 and rose from associate to Managing Attorney and now partner. She graduated from Boston College and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 2011. While still in law school she interned in the Business [...]

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Dakota Johnson Tracee Ellis Ross

    Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross Co-Starring in Comedy 'Covers'

    Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross will co-star in “Covers,” a comedy set in the music scene in Hollywood. “Late Night” director Nisha Ganatra is helming from a screenplay by Flora Greeson. Focus Features is partnering with Working Title Films on the movie. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce with Alexandra Loewy [...]

  • Academy of Country Music CEO Pete

    Academy of Country Music CEO Pete Fisher Exits; RAC Clark Named Interim Chief

    The CEO of the Academy of Country Music, Pete Fisher, has exited after two and a half years at the helm of the organization behind the annual ACM Awards. RAC Clark, the executive producer of the CBS broadcast, has been named interim executive director, effective immediately. No reason was given for the change at the [...]

  • Lumineers Explore Spiral of Addiction With

    Lumineers Explore Spiral of Addiction With Shocking New Series of Music Videos

    Last month, the Lumineers debuted their raw, emotive new single “Gloria” with an intimate performance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” complete with a living room stage design and vintage home movies looping in the background. The nostalgic, homegrown feel was intentional — an overt nod to their upcoming concept album, “III,” set for [...]

  • John Williams Pens Theme for Disneyland's

    John Williams in Disneyland: The Story Behind His 'Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge' Theme

    For only the second time in more than four decades of “Star Wars” music, legendary composer John Williams has written a new theme for a “Star Wars” project that is distinct from his film scores for those galaxies far, far away. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the much-anticipated attraction that will open at Disneyland on May [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content