2018 Breakthrough Entertainer: ‘Boo’d Up’ singer Ella Mai

In this Nov. 19, 2018 photo, singer Ella Mai poses for a portrait in New York. Mai was named as one of eight Breakthrough Entertainers of the Year by the Associated Press. (Photo by Matt Licari/Invision/AP)

Singer Ella Mai appreciates how much “Boo’d Up” has changed her life and jumpstarted her music career, but she wants to make one thing clear: “I know how to make songs. I’m not the ‘Boo’d Up’ girl.”

“Being someone who’s had an insane year off of one song, it can be a gift and a curse,” said 24-year-old Mai. “I felt like almost everyone was kind of like, ‘She’s a one-hit wonder.’ Everyone was waiting for me to fail, honestly. Like, ‘Ah, the next song she releases isn’t going to be as good.'”

But Mai, who was born in London and lived in New York from ages 12 to 17, proved the haters wrong. She followed her debut hit with “Trip,” a platinum success currently spending its 10th week on top of Billboard’s Hot R&B songs chart. Overall, she’s topped the R&B charts for 23 weeks this year — and counting. She also landed in The Associated Press’ list of Breakthrough Entertainers of 2018 .
Her self-titled debut album, released in October, has already reached gold status and debuted at No. 5 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart. “Releasing the album was me saying, ‘I’m an album artist,'” she said.

Mai’s breakthrough year included an opening slot on tour for Bruno Mars, collaborations with Chris Brown, H.E.R. and Meek Mill, winning two Soul Train Awards and earning nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards — all while watching “Boo’d Up” bring R&B back to the pop charts. The triple-platinum song spent 13 weeks on top of R&B charts and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

“Being such a huge R&B fan and growing up listening to R&B, I never imagined that I could be on the forefront or one of the new faces of a genre that I love so much,” she said. “I think back to me being a little girl and looking up to Lauryn Hill and looking up to Alicia Keys — not saying I’m Lauryn Hill or Alicia Keys — but there’s a new generation that will look up to us.”

“Me, Kehlani, H.E.R., Jhene Aiko, SZA — there’s a lot of us strong females trying to bring it back,” she added. As each day goes by, Mai continues to notch one more thing off her list of goals. Winning a Grammy could be next: She’s nominated for one of the show’s biggest awards — song of the year — as well as best R&B song for “Boo’d Up.”

“I would love to win a Grammy. Not that it’s the be-all, or end-all, but I think the recognition, that’s the highest form of recognition we can get as artists,” she said.q

By MESFIN FEKADU
Associated Press