‘The Voice’s Katherine Ho Featured on ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Soundtrack
Katherine Ho might not be a name that is super familiar to you even if you follow The Voice closely. Despite making it to the Knockouts on Team Adam in Season 10, all three of her performances were montaged. But Katherine Ho, now a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Southern California, has made a name for herself off the show! Her cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” (sung in Chinese) plays in the closing scenes of Crazy Rich Asians. Here’s how she found her way onto the soundtrack of one of the year’s most anticipated movies!
Before we get into it, take a listen here:
Such a beautiful, soothing cover. And not to spoil it for you, but the song sets the perfect mood for the ending of the movie! You should totally see the movie, by the way. It’s amazing. And “Yellow” playing in the closing scenes of the movie is one of the most talked-about moments of the film as a whole. While there is also a Chinese cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl,” Katherine Ho’s Coldplay cover stands out.
The story behind getting this song on the soundtrack is honestly pretty crazy! When Katherine was first asked to send in a demo, she almost didn’t even submit one. It was a busy time in her life, having just started at USC a few weeks earlier. She was adjusting to the life of a college student. Katherine is a biology major with a minor in songwriting so she definitely stays busy.
But then, one day in January, the director of A Capella Academy, an a capella summer camp she once attended, sent her a text about the demo. As a child of two Chinese immigrants, Katherine said that even though she had no idea what the project was at the time, the opportunity “meant a lot on a personal level.” She has been singing in Mandarin for pretty much her entire life after all!
She then started working on a rendition of “Yellow” in a practice room on campus right away. Her cover was based on Li Wenhui’s, which became popular after his performance on China’s version of The Voice. While experimenting with the song, Katherine worked with her parents. They acted as her dialect coaches, helping her perfect her pronunciation and dissecting the lyrics’ nuanced meanings. She sent in a partial demo and hoped for the best!
A few days later, she got the call that she landed the job. But she still didn’t know what it was for! About an hour before arriving at the Los Angeles studio she would record the song at, she learned it would be for Crazy Rich Asians.
“I was in the car with my dad and they called me and told me it was for Crazy Rich Asians and my heart exploded. I freaked out that I was going to be attached, even in a very minor way, to the film.'”
But before all that, just getting “Yellow” on the soundtrack is a story in itself. Coldplay originally did not approve the request to have the song used. The song’s title, “Yellow,” has long been used as a derogatory term for Asians. Plus, Coldplay had previously gotten criticism for cultural appropriation for songs like “Princess of China.”
But then, Jon M. Chu, the film’s director, wrote a letter to the band to persuade them to allow it. He explained that because of the song’s title and the word’s connotation among Asian and Asian-American communities, it was the perfect fit for the film.
“We’re going to own that term. If we’re going to be called yellow, we’re going to make it beautiful. We tried so many other songs, but everything was about the love story and not about the bigger context of who we are.”
In his letter to Coldplay, Jon M. Chu went on to write:
“I know it’s a bit strange, but my whole life I’ve had a complicated relationship with the color yellow. From being called the word in a derogatory way throughout grade school, to watching movies where they called cowardly people yellow, it’s always had a negative connotation in my life. That is, until I heard your song. For the first time in my life, it described the color in the most beautiful, magical ways I had never 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.”
And if you want to read the full letter, here it is: