The story behind USC alumna’s recording of ‘Yellow’ from Crazy Rich Asians

Katherine Ho, a former contestant on The Voice, recorded the demo for hours while her parents coached her Mandarin dialect over the phone

Katherine Ho covered ColdplayÕs “Yellow” in Mandarin for the soundtrack of Crazy Rich Asians (Photo courtesy of Tory Stolper Photography)

Trojans watching Crazy Rich Asians on the big screen should listen carefully to its score. They might recognize a voice or two on the soundtrack.

From Twitter to Cosmopolitan to The Washington Post, the internet is blowing up about one of the songs in the film’s final scenes, a cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” sung by USC alumna Katherine Ho.

Ho, a past contestant on NBC’s The Voice, remembers when she got wind of the gig. A director from A Cappella Academy, a summer camp she went to in high school, called to ask if she could sing in Mandarin and if would she be interested in recording a demo for an unidentified film or TV project.

Ho, who grew up singing in Mandarin, jumped at the chance.

“I recorded it in a practice room on campus the day [he] texted me,” said Ho, a biology major who wants to minor in songwriting.

She recorded the song for hours, while her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from China, coached her dialect over the phone. She was so tired she passed out and woke up in the room at 7 a.m. the next day, she told the Post.

A surreal meeting before recording ‘Yellow’ from Crazy Rich Asians

She had no idea what it was for and didn’t have high hopes.

“I’ve auditioned for a lot of stuff,” she said. “I just tried to move on from it.”

But then one night, while doing homework, she got an email saying she got the job. They needed her to come in to do the final recording.

“I didn’t know what it was for until the car ride there,” she said. “One of the Warner Bros. executives called and told me what it was for and I totally lost it. Constance Wu is one of my all time idols — not just as an actress but as an activist and person in general.”

When Ho got to the recording studio, director Jon M. Chu — a USC alum — was there. It all kind of sunk in.

“It was just so surreal,” she said. “It was hard not to be nervous after I found out what it was for.”

Ho has seen the movie five times. She saw it first with another Trojan, Cheryl Koh, who goes by Cheryl K and sang the song “Money” for the film.

While the term yellow is often used as a slur against Asians, Chu wrote to Coldplay for permission to use the song — and re-appropriate the word.

“I know it’s a bit strange, but my whole life I’ve had a complicated relationship with the color yellow,” he wrote in the letter, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

It changed the way he saw the word, he said: “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.”

Coldplay reportedly approved the request a day later.

Ho’s dad is her biggest fan

The song Ho sang is based off a cover sung on China’s version of The Voice.

For Ho, it’s special to a sing a song she’s loved since she was a kid growing up in Thousand Oaks, in the native tongue of her parents.

“I really do think being Chinese-American is a separate identity from being just American or just Chinese. I think the song is symbolic of this. It’s this classic Western hit with Mandarin lyrics,” she said. “It sounds cheesy. I really never have been more proud of my Asian-American identity until I saw this film.”

And now she has a whole new set of fans — and some she’s always had, like her dad.

“My dad told me — he has a long commute to work — he told me he’s been listening every day,” she told Cosmo.

By Joanna Clay

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