How ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Used a Madonna Song Without Her Permission

Crazy Rich Asians uses quite a few pop songs, including one by Madonna the filmmakers used without her permission. Here’s a look at what the curator of the film’s music had to say to the Queen of Pop in an interview.

Madonna on a couch
Madonna | Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Why there’s a Madonna song in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ instead of a Kanye West song

One of the themes of Crazy Rich Asians is the perceived cultural divide between an Asian-American woman named Rachel Chu and her boyfriend’s mother, who is Chinese-Singaporean. The film highlights this theme of the confluence of cultures through its soundtrack. For example, Crazy Rich Asians features Chinese covers of English-language songs like “Yellow” by Coldplay and Barret Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want).” It also includes a multilingual cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl.”

According to HuffPost, Gabe Hilfer served as the music supervisor for Crazy Rich Asians. While making the film, Hilfer and director John M. Chu made a list of over 100 songs about money they could use. One of these was Kanye West’s hit “Gold Digger.”

“Gold Digger” by Kanye West ft. Jamie Fixx

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Originally, Crazy Roch Asians was going to feature “Gold Digger” in the scene where Rachel gets a makeover. However, the song didn’t fit the tone of the sequence. After all, Rachel is portrayed as a sympathetic character — not a gold digger. In the final version of the film, Sally Yeh’s cover of “Material Girl” plays over this sequence.

“It was just so perfect,” Hilfer told Entertainment Weekly. “We had tried other things there, and that scene used to be way longer and different, and when we consolidated it down and covered it, it just seemed perfectly suited for the scene.” Heifer recalled she found Yeh’s “Material Girl” during a “deep dive” into Chinese covers of songs.

Sally Yeh’s cover of “Material Girl”

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What Gabe Hilfer has to say to Madonna

Oddly enough, the creators of Crazy Rich Asians did not obtain Madonna’s permission to use of one of her classic songs for the film. Why? Madonna had no role in the writing of the song. Therefore, the HuffPost reports Hilfer  and Chu simply had to get permission from the song’s publisher as well as the label that owns Yeh’s cover.

The Queen of Pop never discussed the issue with Hilfer and Chu. “I hope that [Madonna] appreciates it, because I do feel like it was used in the spirit she intended it,” Hifer said. 

Madonna’s “Material Girl”

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How the world reacted to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and its soundtrack

Hilfer was certainly pleased with “Material Girls”’s appearance in Crazy Rich Asians. Was the public? The film’s soundtrack album reached No. 11 on the Billboard Soundtrack Chart. That’s not very impressive. However, Box Office Mojo reports the film itself earned $238 million against a budget of $30 million. The public really embraced Crazy Rich Asians — even if they weren’t too interested in its soundtrack.