Director Jon M. Chu knew exactly how he wanted Crazy Rich Asians to end. He wanted the moment to be specific to the characters while speaking to a larger context. Chu knew there was only one song that would capture that moment, a song he fell in love with in college: “Yellow” by Coldplay.
“We’re going to own that term,” Chu told The Hollywood Reporter. Initially, Warner Bros. was concerned the song’s title would be controversial due to the word’s negative connotation as an ethnic slur. “If we’re going to be called yellow, we’re going to make it beautiful.” But at first, it didn’t look like Chu’s intended soundtrack would be possible.
Coldplay turned down the request. No official explanation has been offered, but some outlets have speculated that it may be due to past criticism of the band for previously appropriating Asian culture.
Undeterred, Chu wrote to the band directly because, after trying a few other tracks, he knew that the scene would not be complete without that exact song. “I know it’s a bit strange, but my whole life I’ve had a complicated relationship with the color yellow,” Chu began his letter. “For the first time in my life, it described the color in the most beautiful, magical ways I had ever heard: the color 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.”
Within 24 hours of writing the letter, Coldplay had changed their minds. Chu had the song re-recorded in Chinese by USC Freshman and for Voice contestant Katherine Ho to further meld both cultures into the song.
Rihanna’s “Stay” was considered as well as several songs by Sia, but they weren’t right, reports HuffPost. “We tried so many other songs,” said Chu. “but everything was about the love story and not about the bigger context of who we are.” For Chu, it wasn’t just about the love story or the specific characters. It was about an opportunity to represent an underrepresented ethnicity. The chance has not come along often. Crazy Rich Asians is the first entirely westernized Asian cast feature film taken on by a studio in over 25 years.
Now, the movie ends as Chu had always intended it, set to the song that made him rethink and love his own identity.
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