The Grammy week festivities continue with some of the hottest parties and performances in town. On Thursday night, Ella Mai performed at the Delta Air Lines pre-Grammy party, which took place at the Mondrian in West Hollywood. Kicking off Grammy week, the R&B singer took the stage to perform a set of her hit songs.
The private party was packed with celebrities and executives, who gathered to network, socialize and listen to Mai’s performance. An array of lobster hors d’oeuvres and pear vodka cocktails circled the room as people enjoyed and vibed to the music.
Mai, the first-time Grammy nominee whose breakthrough song “Boo’d Up” is nominated for both song of the year and best R&B song, told Billboard before the show that she was excited to attend the Grammy Awards for the first time. “It’s a surreal feeling,” Mai says. “This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. I’ve never even been to the Grammys before, so to go and to also be nominated… It’s surreal.”
“Boo’d Up,” which hit No. 1 on the Hot R&B Songs chart and reached the top 10 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, has earned Mai a well-deserved spot at the Grammys this year. Mai originally released the song in February 2017 as part of her Ready EP. “Boo’d Up” rose to popularity on social media over the next few months, and her music reached a bigger audience, thanks to rising airplay starting last spring. Despite the amount of time it took for the song to reach current mainstream success, Mai thinks that it was well worth the wait.
“The story is better that it took so long,” the 24-year-old singer tells Billboard of the slow-burning success she’s experienced with “Boo’d Up.” “I think it shows that it doesn’t really matter how long something takes. If a song is timeless, then it will pick up when it’s supposed to. Everything happens for a reason.”
The singer performed a mix of songs from her self-titled EP at the party, including “Good Bad,” “Sauce,” “Naked,” “Gut Feeling” and “Dangerous.” She also introduced her latest single, “Shot Clock” — a song about men missing opportunities with women that they want. Her band matched the upbeat tempo of the beats with Ella’s smooth R&B ballads, to which the crowd swayed and bobbed their heads.
“Delta, are you guys still with me, are you having a good time?” Ella asked the crowd. “OK good, just making sure.” Mai proceeded to invite her backup singers to sing an a cappella version of “Dangerous,” with their two-step dance moves synchronizing perfectly to the tune.
Mai took a moment to shout-out DJ Mustard in the audience — the record producer who discovered her and signed her to his label, 10 Summers Records — and thanked him for his work.
“The song that we got nominated for is very dear to my heart, and I couldn’t come here without doing it.” While the band rocked out on the drums to close out the previous song, the highly anticipated “Boo’d Up” played in the background and the crowd cheered in excitement. “Without further ado,” she said before delivering the long-awaited song.
Last but not least, she couldn’t leave without ending the night with another crowd favorite, “Trip.” The audience swayed to the rhythmic piano melody as Ella’s stunning voice carried throughout the room.