Friday Song: Yellow, by Katherine Ho, from ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ - SupChina

Friday Song: Yellow, by Katherine Ho, from ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

A cover of Chinese rock star Zheng Jun's cover of Coldplay.

Of all the things Crazy Rich Asians has going for it — critical acclaim, strong earnings, cultural impact — let’s add this to the list: really nice music.

Arranged by Gabe Hilfer, the soundtrack includes covers of Madonna (Sally Yeh’s 1985 Cantonese rendition of “Material Girl,” renamed “200 Degrees”), Grace Chang 葛兰 (“I Want Your Love,” by Jasmine Chen), and Elvis Presley (“Can’t Help Falling in Love,” by Japanese American Kina Grannis), among others.

But a notable standout is Katherine Ho’s “Yellow,” which is a cover of Coldplay’s song by the same name. (The first Chinese version was actually performed by Zheng Jun 鄭鈞, a Chinese rock star who released the song under the name “Shooting Star” 流星 in 2001.) Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu had to personally write a letter to Coldplay to get permission to use the song, as the band originally felt uncomfortable with the potential racial connotations, when associated with an Asian movie, of the song title. As relayed by Quartzy:

“For the first time in my life, it described the color in the most beautiful, magical ways,” Chu wrote. “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.” Allowing him to use the song in the movie, Chu wrote, would give a “a whole generation of Asian-Americans, and others, the same sense of pride I got when I heard your song.”

Within an hour, the band emailed him back, granting him permission. As promised, Chu triumphantly features it, unmistakably Sinified, as the film’s final song, during its protagonist’s climactic moment of self-realization.

The word “yellow” doesn’t ever appear in the lyrics, though it wouldn’t have mattered, since the term has no derogative meaning in Chinese. But as Cosmo notes, for an English-speaking audience, Chu “re-appropriated the name of the song.” (That Cosmo link is a profile of Katherine Ho, the singer — who is a 19-year-old student and former The Voice contestant.)

Speaking of lyrics, let’s have a look, shall we? They’re very lovely. Here’s my crack at a translation:

Yellow

我想知道   流星能飞多久
I want to know how long a meteor can fly for

它的美丽   是否   值得去寻求
Whether its beauty is worth looking for

夜空的花   散落在你身后
Flowers in the night sky scatter and fall behind you

幸福了我很久   值得去等候
Making me happy for a long while. It’s worth waiting for

于是我心狂奔   从黄昏到清晨   不能再承受
My heart rushes from dusk to early morning, unable to bear it anymore

情愿   坠落在你手中
My feelings and hopes land in your hands

羽化   成黑夜的彩虹
Sprouting into night’s rainbow

蜕变   成月光的清风   成月光的清风
Morphing into the moonlight’s breeze, into moonlight’s breeze

Refrain:
幸福   跳进你的河流   一直游到尽头   跳进你的河
Happiness / Leap into your river and swim to the end / Leap into your river

我想知道   流星能飞多久
I want to know how long a meteor can fly for

它的美丽   是否
Its beauty, is it true

Here’s the pinyin, for those who want to sing along:

wǒ xiǎng zhīdào        liúxīng néng fēi duōjiǔ
tā dì měilì        shìfǒu        zhídé qù xúnqiú
yèkōng de huā        sànluò zài nǐ shēnhòu
xìngfúle wǒ hěnjiǔ        zhídé qù děnghòu
yúshì wǒ xīn kuángbēn        cóng huánghūn dào qīngchén        bùnéng zài chéngshòu
qíngyuàn        zhuìluò zài nǐ shǒuzhōng
yǔhuà        chéng hēiyè de cǎihóng
tuìbiàn        chéng yuèguāng de qīngfēng        chéng yuèguāng de qīngfēng

Refrain:
xìngfú        tiào jìn nǐ de héliú        yīzhí yóu dào jìntóu        tiào jìn nǐ de hé

wǒ xiǎng zhīdào        liúxīng néng fēi duōjiǔ
tā dì měilì        shìfǒu

And here’s the original Chinese version, Zheng Jun’s “Shooting Star”:


Friday Song is SupChina’s weekly sign-off. Let us know what you thought of the week that was in the comments below, or email [email protected]

Anthony Tao

Anthony is the Asia managing editor of SupChina. Follow him @anthonytao

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