Everyone’s talking about “Crazy Rich Asians” -- I myself can’t stop reading coverage or staring at photos of Gemma Chan. And it’s justified: The critics are raving and audiences are loving not only the adorable and glamorous storyline, but the tone of representation and finding yourself that resonates throughout the entire film. There are no stereotypical Asian tropes in the movie, the first to feature an all-Asian cast in a Hollywood feature film in over two decades, and America is all about it.
Combine New Yorker Rachel Chu with her Chinese boyfriend (who also went to Oxford), throw in some snooty Singaporean high society, and things are bound to get a little blended.
“Crazy Rich Asians” finds a way to integrate authentic Asian ideals with a Westernized culture in a way that doesn’t take away from either side, but instead accentuates both sets of values. The soundtrack is one of those ways.
In one scene, Rachel (Constance Wu) tries on dresses with the help of friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina) that she hopes will impress her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding)’s imposing and haughty mother. It’s a quintessential montage-ish scene typical of rom-coms and allows Ken Jeong to get a little bit more screen time. And the song playing during the scene is none other than Madonna’s “Material Girl” -- but sung by Sally Yeh in Cantonese instead. That was decided by the song’s publisher and Yeh’s record label.
“I hope that [Madonna] appreciates it, because I do feel like it was used in the spirit she intended it,” music supervisor Gabe Hilfer told The Huffington Post.
However, apparently the song for the film’s closing scene, Coldplay’s “Yellow,” was a little more difficult to get the go-ahead for. According to Hilfer, the band requested a screening of the movie before allowing their song to be featured on the soundtrack. Quartzy reasoned that the foursome had previously been accused of appropriating Asian culture in songs like “Princess of China” and “Hymn for the Weekend,” so they were probably a little hesitant.
Hilfer says that after seeing the film and understanding the impact of it, the band immediately OK-ed the song’s inclusion. Director Jon M. Chu, however, says different.
He wrote a letter to the band members explaining why “Yellow” was the song he needed to complete his film. Even after toying with Rihanna and Sia ballads, only “Yellow” seemed to fit, due in part to the connotation of the word “yellow” to Asian-Americans throughout history.
“...My whole life I’ve had a complicated relationship with the color yellow...It’s always had a negative connotation in my life. That is, until I heard your song,” Chu wrote.
“It will give a whole generation of Asian-Americans, and others, the same sense of pride I got when I heard your song.”
Chu reports that within 24 hours of sending the letter, Coldplay agreed to the request. And the best part is how they used it: Katherine Ho, a freshman at USC who competed on “The Voice,” recorded a Chinese-language cover of the song, which played over the final scenes that tied up Rachel’s story with a pretty little bow.
The song definitely fits and added to the experience of seeing the movie; hearing a mainstream American song with Chinese lyrics is the embodiment of “Crazy Rich Asians.”