“We released ‘Boo’d Up’ a year ago now on my third EP Ready,” Mai tells Billboard. “None of us thought this song could possibly have a rebirth. I feel like it’s God’s time and I can’t really question it. But we’re extremely excited and grateful that everything is happening the way it’s happening.”
Mai cites the track’s nostalgic feel and catchy chorus as key reasons behind its burgeoning popularity. In fact, the singer/songwriter says a lot of people have been tagging her to show their kids singing the chorus. “The song’s content is very innocent and very loving, something any age group can relate to,” adds Mai. “Everyone has been in a situation where, as I say in the song, they’re head over heels in love with someone. No one else really matters at that point. It’s just about that person.”
And the video plays up those aspects in a colorful, let-your-hair-down way, striking a cool balance between innocence and romance. “I didn’t want the video to be overly romantic,” says Mai. “I wanted it to have more of a fun feel: kind of like a date night with the person I’m talking about. There’s a story line but it’s more so about capturing different moments with friends and then just myself and my love interest.”
Watch “Boo’d Up”:
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Discovered by hip-hop producer DJ Mustard through social media postings of the singer covering Fetty Wap, Kehlani and Michael Jackson, Ella Mai released Time, the first chapter in her EP trilogy, in 2016. After relocating to Los Angeles fulltime later that year, the London-born artist formally signed with Mustard’s Interscope-distributed 10 Summers Records and issued her second EP Change. Following the 2017 release of Ready, Mai is currently in the studio finishing her debut album, which is being executive produced by Mustard.
“We’re pretty close to finishing,” says Mai. “You can hear the growth from my EP’s into this project. Content-wise, it’s a bit more mature. It’s still me and, like the EP’s, still about love and relationships. There are definitely some collaborations but I can’t share those just yet.”
Earlier this year, Mai squeezed in another new song, “Naked,” and its visual, which have also played an integral role in boosting the newcomer’s visibility. She calls the song and its message—self-love—one of her favorite efforts to date.
“'Naked’ is extremely vulnerable, way more vulnerable than anything else I’ve put out so far,” Mai explains. “When we recorded it, we just wanted to put it out straight away because it’s an important message, especially in the age of social media. ‘Naked’ embodies what everyone at the end of the day really wants and how they should feel.”
Mai, who opened for Kehlani on the SweetSexySavage tour at the beginning of 2017, finished the year with her own sold-out tour. In addition to playing a round of college shows over the next few months, she will perform on two major festival stages this summer: BET Experience (June 21-24) and Essence Festival (July 5-8).
“I could never have imagined that so early in my career that I’d be ticking off boxes that I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl,” says Mai. “I definitely feel like I still have a lot of hard work to do. But I’m ready to really show people what I’m about.”