August 02, 2018
The singer is the first UK star to top the US R&B singles charts since 1992, with Boo’d Up – a retro feelgood smash. But, she says, Britain doesn’t quite get it
Ella Mai: ‘If it were up to England, Boo’d Up definitely wouldn’t be where it is now’
Rihanna puckered up to it on Instagram. Nicki Minaj remixed it. Migos crooned along to it. Eighteen months after its release, south London singer Ella Mai’s infectious single, R&B throwback Boo’d Up, has gone from being a sleeper hit to the US-conquering song of the summer – last week she became the first British artist to top the US R&B charts since Lisa Stansfield in 1992.
But when asked to pinpoint a standout moment from her song’s rise to US radio dominance, Mai’s response is decidedly level-headed. “It’s the way it’s steadily progressed,” she says, speaking from LA. She giddily reels off chart positions in the song’s ascent to its current eight-week reign in the US Top 10 as if she is still pinching herself. “For a purely R&B song with no featured artists,” she says, “that’s insane.”
With its puppy-love lyrics, Boo’d Up is a rose-tinted trip back to a time when a Friday night canoodling at the local arcade was dating goals, and the only right-swiping was at a Tesco checkout. Over a beat that sounds like a lost classic from SWV or Xscape, Mai’s swooning vocals transpose teenage heart-flutters into the chorus’s giddily onomatopoeic hook, on which she scats: “Ba-dum, boo’d up/ Biddy-da-dum, boo’d up.” Among the sharp-edged trap and hip-hop that dominates today’s playlists, Mai’s laid-back style is a welcome rush of nostalgia, like the first sip of Ribena on a summer’s day.

She says it makes her “super proud” to represent the UK, but her US dominance is yet to be replicated in her birthplace. That is partly because Mai lives in LA, where she is signed to hip-hop heavyweight DJ Mustard’s 10 Summers label. But also, “the music industry in England doesn’t really know what to do with R&B,” Mai says. “If it were up to England, Boo’d Up definitely wouldn’t be where it is now.”
Advertisement
Despite Britain’s rich history of soul artists, pure R&B can often feel sidelined. A new wave of artists such as Mabel and Jorja Smith have scored their biggest hits by leaning into Afro bashment and UK garage, while the slightly more retro grooves of Etta Bond, Mahalia, and NAO don’t get the mainstream love they deserve.
Growing up in Wimbledon Chase and Mitcham in south-west London, Mai’s mum gave her a love of music, and would play Mary J Blige, Lauryn Hill, and old jazz records around the house. When she got a teaching job in New York City, her daughter, then 12, joined her and moved to the city’s Queens neighbourhood, before returning to the UK at 17 and studying at London’s BIMM music college. At 19, she auditioned for The X Factor with a couple of mates, performing a well-crafted, if unmemorable, cover of a Little Mix ballad. She first truly found her audience on Instagram, belting out soulful takes of Drake and Kanye West hits. “That was a huge part of building my fanbase,” Mai says. “I had no makeup on; my hair looked crazy. I was just being myself: the girl next door.”
Mai strengthened those connections to fans with sincere songs about self-acceptance, and biting kiss-offs (“I hope the next girl you love ends up fucking you over,” she sneered on one early track). On Boo’d Up’s parent EP, Ready, tracks are linked by straight-talking interludes aimed at a partner, like Destiny Child’s The Writing’s On the Wall for the WhatsApp generation. But for older audiences, Mai’s retro-leaning style can summon decades-old musical memories. “I can press play on Boo’d Up and reminisce,” says Marsha Ambrosius, a solo R&B artist formerly of millennium-era duo Floetry. “I can put my hair in a pineapple up-do, gel down fingerwaves at the side, and feel like it’s 1996. Among all the current madness, you just wanna listen to something that makes you feel good again.”
Ella Mai: ‘If it were up to England, Boo’d Up definitely wouldn’t be where it is now’
That feeling may be too irresistible for the UK to pass up. On this week’s midweek singles chart, Boo’d Up jumped from 78 to 56, and it was added to Radio 1’s C-list last week, meaning it will be played around eight times a week. “People request it all he time,” says DJ Ace, who runs an R&B show on BBC 1Xtra. “I was recently in Ibiza, and that was the number one record that women wanted to hear in the club.”
As her next single Trip is released this week, Mai wants Boo’d Up to be a success in the UK: for herself, sure, but also to prove R&B’s deserved place at the heart of UK music. “There’s a place for R&B in the UK industry, a huge market,” she says. “I hope that Boo’d Up can be a testament to the fact. Sometimes, it takes you moving outside the box to prove that it can be done.”
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Lori Loughlin, husband plead guilty in college admissions scandal | Page Six Celebrity News
May 22, 2020
3Tx-FvqZzVI
Celebrity breakups during quarantine: Megan Fox, Ashley Benson and more | Page Six Celebrity News
May 22, 2020
APr202A7bbQ
Darren Barnet from ‘Never Have I Ever’ shares his naughty DMs | Page Six Celebrity News
May 21, 2020
GAOySCx9Zi0
Ayesha Curry's Jaw-Dropping Bikini Pics Taken By Steph Curry | E! News
May 24, 2020
JOxRMbPMajk
Best Moments From Iconic 2001 Film "Pearl Harbor": Rewind | E! News
May 25, 2020
dvDxM-leiqw
"Terrace House" Star Hana Kimura Dead at 22 After Cyberbullying | E! News
May 23, 2020
xqo43SIrfRs
'Riverdale' Star Cole Sprouse on His Quarantine Mustache, 'Animal Crossing' and New Podcast
May 25, 2020
iN2edkR-OYM
Ben Platt on His Groundbreaking Radio City Music Hall Concert on Netflix
May 20, 2020
DXN5iMMfs60
Daveed Diggs On The Emotional Toll of Filming 'Snowpiercer' Stunts And The 'Hamilton' Movie
May 18, 2020
n17S9kH7XuA
Ahmaud Arbery Family Lawyer Says D.A.'s, Cops Criminally Investigated by FBI
May 25, 2020
r64cdXzvsPA
'Floribama Shore' Kirk Medas Arrest Video, Do You Know Who I Am? | TMZ
May 24, 2020
Qrl7Iq3lBDM
Jamie Kennedy Explains How Stand-Up Comedy's Changed Amid Pandemic | TMZ
May 24, 2020
Q6SG4jcR6VI
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
08
Mar
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Inter Milan
08
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Manchester City
08
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Everton
08
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Betis - Real Madrid
08
Mar
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Genoa
07
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Burnley - Tottenham Hotspur
07
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - West Ham United
07
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Real Sociedad
07
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Bournemouth
07
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Sevilla
01
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Barcelona
01
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Manchester United
01
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Wolves
01
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Espanyol - Atletico Madrid
01
Mar
ITALY: Serie A
Cagliari - Roma
29
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Watford - Liverpool
29
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Torino
29
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Bournemouth - Chelsea
24
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - West Ham United
23
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Everton
23
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Watford
23
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Lecce
23
Feb
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Villarreal
22
Feb
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Real Madrid
22
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Fiorentina - AC Milan
22
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Manchester City
22
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Spal - Juventus
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k tudKp5Vhs3k iwWHibhssSo kQr0XHPbICM 5NeCb7JxaRk
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.